The aluminium industry recently released a study it sponsored claiming that aluminium cars and light trucks impacted the environment less than vehicles made from steel over the lifetime of the vehicle.

The ‘study’ was carried by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. It was noted that in the production phase, aluminium uses more energy than steel, but the reduced weight in the car from aluminium over time offset the advantages of steel.

The Steel Market Development Institute, naturally, wanted to respond to the lifecycle study comparing the two materials. It turns out that the so-called ‘study’ was nothing more than a slide presentation with no backup. But it seems that not only is the battle for market share between the two materials a heated one, so is the PR battle.

The US Aluminum Extruders Council, believe that smaller, lighter weight cars will benefit them at the expense of steel. They believe a surge in demand is coming that will increase the weight of extrusions per car to 38 to 39 pounds (17.2 – 17.7kg) from 13.7lb (6.2kg) last year, with additional growth from the truck sector.

In response, the president of the Steel Market Development Institute cited Advanced-High Strength Steels (AHSS) as the competitive answer to aluminium. He noted that AHSS products are in production and in the market now and helping auto manufacturers meet new federally mandated requirements for fuel economy. In its longstanding programme working with automakers to develop new steels, the goal is to reduce weight, costs and do so without requiring substantial stamping plant or body shop investment, which changing to different materials would require.

Reporting on this in its monthly newsletter, the American Institute for International Steel (AIIS) note that, far from the normal perspective about steel and the auto sector, steel still makes up about the same percentage of weight of the average car it has for a long time. While cars have become lighter and smaller, steel is still the material of choice for the auto sector.