sustainable automotive aluminum
Image courtesy of The Aluminum Association

Aluminum Association releases R&D priorities for automotive customers

The "2022 Roadmap for Automotive Aluminum" identifies pathways and prioritizes opportunities for collaboration among aluminum suppliers, recyclers, automakers, policymakers, nongovernmental organizations and other industry stakeholders.

February 1, 2022

The Aluminum Association, headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, has released its short-, mid- and long-term research and development priorities in support of its automotive customers.

The “2022 Roadmap for Automotive Aluminum” identifies pathways and prioritizes opportunities for collaboration among aluminum suppliers, recyclers, automakers, policymakers, nongovernmental organizations and other industry stakeholders to drive innovation throughout the next decade, the association says.

“From electric vehicles and connected cars to autonomous technology and supplier sustainability, the automotive industry is experiencing tectonic shifts in design, propulsion, materials and manufacturability,” Mike Keown, Aluminum Transportation Group chair and chief executive officer of Commonwealth Rolled Products, says. “To meet the moment, the aluminum industry is gearing up to bring to market the most advanced automotive alloys and product designs ever produced. This technology roadmap details where we are today, where we are headed and specific pathways and priorities that will accelerate technical advances to support automakers as they envision cars and trucks far superior to anything on the road today to meet consumer demands in the next decade and beyond.”

The Aluminum Association says it brought industry stakeholders together in March 2021 to define and address challenges, agree on goals and identify technology pathways to achieve those goals within five key areas:

  • Design engineering—partnering with automakers in every step of the iterative vehicle design process by establishing open-access resources for design data harmonization across the entire value chain, optimizing material joining processes for efficiency and improving aluminum component manufacturability for strong and durable future vehicles;
  • New alloys and products—pursuing newer standardized aluminum alloys at higher strength, improved formability/ductility, enhanced fracture toughness and extrudability—all at a lower cost—by implementing expedited testing and qualification processes to help automakers meet constantly evolving consumer preferences and regulatory sustainability requirements;
  • Future vehicles—developing more robust and cost-effective solutions to meet all structural and safety requirements of parts, including battery enclosures;
  • Next-generation fabrication technologies—developing aluminum processes with enhanced product capabilities for manufacturing higher quality components addressing simulation and data needs and more efficient and effective material joining and fabrication techniques; and
  • Recycling and sustainability—improving sorting and creating more robust recycling infrastructure to enable effective end-of-life component recovery and reuse while incorporating design elements that ensure parts can be disassembled and recycled efficiently to help establish the circular economy.

“'The Roadmap for Automotive Aluminum' lays out the value-driven steps needed to make large-scale closed-loop aluminum recycling a reality,” says Charles Johnson, president and CEO of The Aluminum Association. “As aluminum use continues to grow, more efficient ways to separate, recover and reuse aluminum scrap in automotive components is of utmost importance, particularly in support of aggressive net-zero goals put forth by automotive customers.”