The 19th Century brought about unrivaled advances in industrial technology and manufacturing processes that resulted in the creation of many of our most important technologies in use today, such as the automobile, steam-powered transport and generators, the airplane, etc. The automobile, in particular, allowed for immense changes and advances in employment patterns, social interactions, infrastructure, and commerce. Although the core concept remains, the ways in which cars are powered, designed, styled, and provided with utilities has changed and evolved dramatically throughout its history.
One of the primary concerns with automobiles is ensuring a safe experience for drivers, passengers, and especially pedestrians who account for nearly 16 percent of traffic-related fatalities. Part of minimizing traffic-related deaths is designing vehicles to be durable as to not endanger those inside. In the early 20th century, steel was the primary and most important material in manufacturing as it was less expensive and required less production time while being stronger than alternatives. However, these automobiles were quite heavy and decreased travel speeds. During and after the First World War, companies began to experiment with aluminum in automobile design, which is significantly lighter than conventional steel, more malleable for aerodynamic design, and has minimal losses in durability. Production materials remained rather constant until the 1950s when fiberglass composites were beginning to be used in full production cars. Further fueled by the oil crisis in the 1970s, manufacturers then felt the pressure to design vehicles that were even more lightweight leading to improved fuel-efficiency. Original equipment manufacturers (OEM) understood that certain parts, such as bumpers, could be substituted with plastic alternatives to decrease weight and price. Consequently, many of the heavier parts were swapped with plastic alternatives.
Today, OEMs juggle the increasing demand for more utilities (and heavier designs) while continuing to improve fuel-efficiency. Several companies are experimenting with plastic carbon composites, but widespread production lags due to notably higher costs. For now, high strength steel and certain aluminum alloys prevail as the primary materials used in automobiles, especially in light vehicle production.
Table of Contents
Global lightweight materials
North American market
1. Global market
Description: Steel materials are expected to account for almost 60 percent of materials used in the production of a typical passenger vehicle by 2025. HSS, mild steel, and advanced high strength steel sit at the top of the list of materials used.
Description: Between 2017 and 2025, the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of carbon fiber reinforced polymer materials used in the assembly of automobiles is expected to come to around nine percent. Other polymer materials used in vehicle manufacturing include plastics and glass fibers.
Description: This statistic shows the market value of lightweight materials worldwide in 2017, with forecasted figures for 2023, by material type. At that time, metal lightweight materials had a global market value of 95.3 billion U.S. dollars in 2017, and is forecasted to increase to 142.7 billion U.S. dollars in 2023.
Description: In 2018, the global automotive composites market was pegged at approximately eight billion U.S. dollars and is slated to reach some 18 billion U.S. dollars by 2025. This market is largely driven by automotive lightweighting and electrification.
Description: Roughly half of semi-finished aluminum products distributed worldwide were consumed by the transport and construction industries in 2020, with construction corresponding to a quarter of the total demand for that year. Aluminum is one of the most abundant metal element in the Earth`s crust and a leading metals produced worldwide each year. It is typically used in alloys with low quantities of other metals and can be found in automobiles, airplanes and drinks cans.
The transportation sector is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in the world. Emissions from heavy-duty vehicles and light-duty vehicles are expected to contribute to the largest share of carbon dioxide emissions from this sector, totaling 38 percent and 36 percent, respectively. In comparison, shipping is responsible for a much smaller share of emissions, with international shipping creating the bulk of these emissions. Most of the fuel used for transportation is petroleum based, including gasoline and diesel.
Emissions from the transportation sector main arise from fossil fuel combustion for cars, trucks, ships, trains, and airplanes. Without aggressively implemented mitigation policies, greenhouse gas emissions are expected to rise over the next decades. Demand for transportation in emerging regions is currently lower than in developed countries; however, it is expected to rise much quicker in the near future due to increasing incomes. Direct emissions from the transportation sector can be reduced by avoiding journeys and behavioral changes, improving vehicle performance technologies, using low carbon fuels, and investing in transportation infrastructure.
Description: This statistic shows the greenhouse gas emissions per capita from transportation industry worldwide, by select country, in 2017. In that year, the transportation industry greenhouse gas emissions in the United States amounted approximately 5.4 metric tons of carbon dioxide per person.
Description: In 2018, sport utility vehicles (SUVs) accounted for almost 50 percent of new vehicle sales in the United States and, worldwide, more than every third vehicle sold was an SUV. This type of motor vehicle caused global carbon dioxide emissions to increase by more than 0.5 gigatons between 2010 and 2018.
2. Global lightweight materials
Description: Global crude steel production is expected to reach almost 2 billion metric tons by 2022. Apart from being produced by raw materials, steel may be recycled and many countries import scraps in order to do so. Over 60 percent of the worlds scrap steel becomes recycled.
Description: In 2021, the total production of alumina across the globe amounted to some 141.5 million metric tons, up from approximately 135.7 million metric tons one year earlier. Alumina is the most commonly occurring of the aluminum oxides, and is refined to produce aluminum.
Description: Global plastics production was estimated to be 367 million metric tons in 2020. Production in 2020 decreased by roughly 0.3 percent compared with the previous year due to COVID-19’s impacts on the industry.
Description: This statistic displays the distribution of the global production capacity of carbon fiber by country in 2018. In that year, the carbon fiber production capacity in China accounted for 12 percent of global production capacity. Carbon fiber consists of extremely small fibers that are mostly derived from carbon atoms. The global demand is expected to increase along with its potential for reinforcing materials such as replacing aluminum in the aerospace sector.
Description: The tin price was estimated to reach around 21,000 U.S. dollars per metric ton, making it the most expensive commodity in this list of common base metals, which includes tin, nickel, copper, zinc, lead, and aluminum. Although there is no clear-cut definition of the term, base metals usually refer to metals that oxidize easily.
Description: After demand for steel dropped during the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019, steel prices also took a hit. However, in 2021, hot-rolled coil (HRC) steel prices were projected to rebound to around 555 U.S. dollars per metric ton-a 15 percent recovery from the dip in prices that had continued into 2020.
3. North American market
Description: This statistic represents the curb weight of North American light vehicles between 2008 and 2020. It is expected that the average North American vehicle is required to weigh 3,735 pounds to meet the 2020 fuel economy standards.
Description: By 2030, some 570 pounds of aluminum are expected to be used per light vehicle in North America. The content of aluminum per vehicle in North America is anticipated to grow at a compound annual growth rate of around 3.5 percent between 1975 and 2030.
Description: This statistic represents the amount of aluminum materials used in light vehicles in North America in 2026, by component. Suspensions, cradles, and subframes are ecpected to account for around seven percent of aluminum content by 2026.
Description: This statistic represents the average weight of plastic and polymer composites in U.S. and Canadian-built light vehicles between 2007 and 2019. In 2019, the weight of plastic and polymer composites in the average light vehicle assembled here amounted to 355 pounds per vehicle, accounting for some 8.9 percent of the total vehicle weight.
Description: In 2020, the U.S. transportation sector consumed nearly three million barrels of distillate fuel oil daily. At the same time, this sector’s daily demand for motor gasoline reached about eight million barrels.
Description: This statistic represents fuel economy levels for light-duty vehicles sold as 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021 model year vehicles in the United States, by vehicle type. MY 2021 pickups on U.S. roads had an average 19.4 miles per gallon mileage. Adjusted fuel economy values reflect real-world estimates. On April 1, 2021, the Biden administration finalized new fuel economy and emissions standards for 2024, 2025, and 2026 model year vehicles. These standards are aimed at boosting fuel efficiency by 10 percent for MY 2026, reversing the Trump administration’s rollback of regulations to improve gas mileage and cut pollution.
Description: This statistic represents adjusted emission levels for light-duty vehicles sold as 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021 model year vehicles in the United States, by vehicle type. MY 2021 SUV cars on U.S. roads produced about 282 grams of carbon dioxide per mile. Adjusted carbon dioxide emission values reflect real world estimates. In August 2021, the Biden administration set the goal for 50 percent of the new U.S. vehicles to be electric by 2030 while also tightening pollution standards for cars and trucks in an effort to reduce emissions.
Description: Around 11.6 million light trucks were delivered to customers throughout the United States in 2021. That year, light trucks accounted for more than three quarters of all light vehicle sales in the United States. The automotive industry was hit hard by the
coronavirus pandemic. Light truck sales fared better than automobiles in part due to the popularity of models such as pickups in states with less stringent COVID regulations.
Description: In 2021, the Toyota RAV4 was the best-selling SUV/crossover model in the United States. Japanese manufacturer Nissan sold some 285,600 units of its Rogue model, making it the third most-popular SUV model in the United States in 2020.
Description: As of the first quarter of 2021, the Ford F-Series remains, as it was in 2020, the best-selling light truck in the United States.
Source from Statista
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