The American Iron and Steel Institute's president and CEO Thomas J Gibson, has filed comments with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on the the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Proposed Rule for Model Years 2021 to 2026.

The AISI supports the general direction of the new proposal, claiming that it will establish a standard that balances the priorities of affordability, safety, jobs and the environment.

"We believe that steel will continue to be a critical component for automakers to meet the final requirements," Gibson said in his submission. "We are strong, advocates for one national programme of standards, as we believe this is best for automakers, the automotive supply chain including the steel industry, in addition to consumers and the economy as a whole."

According to Gibson, the AISI believes that an overly stringent standard that optimises tailpipe-only GHG emissions and fuel economy enhancements 'to the exclusion of other necessary and important design factors' would result in 'negative outcomes', highlighting increased costs to the consumer, negative effects on the environment, increased safety design challenges and a negative job impact. He also referenced the Steel Recycling Institute's Life Cycle Greenhouse Gas Study of Automotive Lightweighting.

Gibson expressed concern above 'any outcomes that could force automakers into choosing alternative materials' that are more costly and have the potential to result in higher overall GHG emissions compared to lightweighting with advanced high-strength steel.

In the automotive industry, there has been a kind of battle raging between the aluminium and steel industries over which is best for cars going forward, bearing in mind the introduction of Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, which were first enacted by the United States Congress in 1975. It has been said recently that, within 15 years, there could be a nearly even split between steel, aluminium and carbon fibre in the average North American-produced light vehicle. However, the continuing development of advanced high steels and calls for a lifecycle assessment of the materials used in car manufacturing have prompted the development of the aforementioned SAFE regulations.

"Since 1970, the steel industry has developed more than 200 innovative new grades of steel, many in collaboration with automakers and specifically for the purposes of achieving new vehicle designs that meet regulatory requirements," Gibson said, adding that material selection is important in helping automakers achieve their performance goals ranging from the driver's experience to passenger safety and overall durability. "These choices must all be balanced to meet the needs of the consumer at an affordable cost while protecting the environment," Gibson added.