Auto makers turn to lighter metals in bid to shed weight – by Greg Keenan (Globe and Mail – October 9, 2017)

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Battery-powered vehicles may eventually deliver a knockout blow to the internal-combustion engine, but auto makers and suppliers are developing counterpunches that will extend the life of the more than century-old technology that put the world on wheels.

The internal-combustion engine (ICE) is getting help from a tactic that seems simple on the surface, but is complex in practice – putting vehicles on a diet.

Materials that are lighter than steel, but were once too costly to replace steel for major applications in vehicles, are becoming more common. The use of aluminum, magnesium and carbon fibre is expected to grow to represent as much as 40 per cent of the body structure and closures in a vehicle by 2030, compared with 14 per cent currently.

Regulations that will require auto makers to reduce their carbon emissions (burning less gasoline means a reduction in emissions) are one key reason behind the trend.

The use of lighter metals is more than a temporary trend designed to stretch out the life of internal-combustion engines. Internal-combustion engines are by far the dominant method of propulsion on the road and are expected to continue to dominate well into the next decade, so auto makers need to find ways to make them more efficient as the rules on emissions become more stringent.

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