October 2008- Here's something you don't hear every day: The government-mandated push to limit CO2 emissions and improve fuel economy could actually increase net CO2 emissions.
How's that possible? Aren't regulations put in place to help? Generally yes, but forcing automakers to turn to alternative lightweight materials, like aluminum, magnesium and plastic, that increase fuel economy at the cost of increasing life cycle greenhouse gas emissions may achieve the opposite effect.
An unexpected consequence
Lightweighting a vehicle is beneficial to increasing fuel economy and reducing greenhouse gases during the use phase of a vehicle (which represents about 80 percent of the total life of a vehicle). However, what few realize is that many alternative, lightweight materials emit 65 percent.
As automotive manufacturers and legislators address the climate change impact of their products, steel, particularly advanced high-strength steels, remains the right choice for vehicle applications and our environment.
Ed Opbroek is director of WorldAutoSteel, the automotive group of the World Steel Association. He was the former director of the UltraLight Steel Auto Body and ULSAB Advanced Vehicle Series of projects by a global consortium of 33 leading steel producers from 20 countries around the world. World Steel Association, WorldAutoSteel and ULSAB's purpose is to demonstrate innovative, affordable automotive steel concepts that meet future safety and performance criteria.