Aluminum Producers Re-Emphasize Powertrain, Lighter Materials to Achieve New CAFE Standards

March 29, 2009
NHTSA outlines 8% higher fuel-efficiency requirements for 2011
Following on the Obama Administration’s announcement of new Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) levels for passenger cars and light trucks, The Aluminum Association endorsed the changes but sought to emphasize its view of how best to achieve the new higher standards. The Association said the ruling, by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, avoids indicating the optimal solution for achieving the new standard, i.e., designing and building more fuel-efficient vehicles through a mix of powertrain advancements and automotive “lightweighting.” The Administration intends to raise average the average fuel-economy standard for light vehicles to 27.3 miles per gallon by 2011, up 8% over the 2010 standard, and the first increase in CAFE standards in 25 years. New cars will have to meet a standard of 30.2 miles per gallon. However, the chairman of The Aluminum Association’s Auto & Light Truck Group, Buddy Stemple, said the NHTSA is overlooking the fuel-saving benefits of engine downsizing in combination with weight reduction through material substitution. “This is disappointing,” Stemple stated, “since lightweighting with aluminum can further improve the efficiencies of alternative powertrain vehicles, such as hybrids and diesels. Aluminum can be a cost-effective complement to many of the technologies that will be relied upon to reach the new CAFE levels. Aluminum-intensive vehicles, when paired with alternative powertrains, can reduce the consumers’ initial vehicle cost and pay them back faster than traditional heavier-bodied models.” The Association recently released results of a study showing that automakers are increasingly choosing aluminum to help to increase fuel efficiency. For 2009 vehicles, aluminum content has reached a new high of 8.6% of vehicle curb weight; the level is seen growing in coming model years. “I have no doubt automakers will continue to expand their use of aluminum as they strive to reach new CAFE targets,” according to Stemple.