Trend towards e-Mobility accelerates Aluminium Use
Hydro sees Great Market Potential for Extruded Profiles
left: Wolfgang Blendl, right: Nunzio Cuppoletta
In automotive manufacturing the importance of aluminium will continue growing over the coming years – be it for vehicles with classic combustion engines or for EVs. This material is also increasingly used in volume vehicles – for the engine, body-in-white, structural components or the chassis. Thanks to the trend towards automotive lightweight construction aluminium enjoys excellent growth potential in automotive. Wolfgang Blendl, VP Commercial & Business Development, and Nunzio Cuppoletta, Director Market Sector Automotive of the Business Unit Extrusion of Hydro in Europe, expand on the future business opportunities for extruded aluminium parts in the automotive sector and innovative technologies under development.
Mr Blendl, demand for aluminium solutions from automotive manufacturers continues to rise. How is Hydro responding to the rising demand?
Wolfgang Blendl: Hydro has identified the automotive sector as a long-term, strategic market – in Europe, Asia and North America. Key to Hydro here is a clear segment strategy and focus. Alongside the well-known volume markets, we increasingly focus on special niches offering our customers tailor-made solutions for selected applications. We primarily cater to applications for chassis, e-mobility, body & closures and exterior. This is also where we will invest more strongly – both in production, R & D and programme management.
What is the market volume for extruded aluminium profiles in the automotive sector and what position does Hydro occupy in this market?
Nunzio Cuppoletta: Over the past five years the percentage of aluminium profiles in vehicles has constantly gone up. Between 2013 and 2017 total consumption for production in Europe was up from approx. 270,000 to 430,000 tons. The average quantity used per vehicle rose from 14 to 19 kilograms. Today, aluminium is the most frequently used material for structural parts, bumpers, suspension, brake and air-conditioning components, body panels as well as powertrain components right after steel. This demand is expected to nearly double by 2025.
Hydro is the largest global manufacturer of extruded aluminium profiles and we have the biggest market share in this segment worldwide. In product segments such as body-in-white, roof railing systems or e-mobility we have a very strong market position; primarily as a TIER2 supplier and in some cases also as a direct supplier for OEMs.
The trend towards e-mobility accelerates the use of aluminium. Which opportunities do you see in this market?
Nunzio Cuppoletta: The changes we will be facing in the automotive sector are already clear to see now. At present, the average manufacturing rate of vehicles with combustion engines stands at some 100,000 units per year while the number of Plug-in-Hybrid vehicles is as low as 30,000 and that of BEVs even lower at 15,000. This ratio will change reflecting the growing pre-dominance of vehicles with low CO2 emissions.
The emission targets set for the coming years will shift the balance here. As a result, the potential for e-vehicles will be considerable. Aluminium is in increasing demand for their production and this must be seen against the backdrop of one fact – that only some 19 kg of aluminium profiles are included in average vehicles with combustion engines whereas battery electric vehicles contain 65 kg of aluminium on average and this amount can easily exceed 250 kg in some electric sports cars.
Extruded profiles help manufacturers opt for new avenues in vehicle architecture, e-motors and power electronics. But the part benefiting most from aluminium is the battery tray. Extruded components keep the battery firm, safe and dry.
What other new technical features and innovations can be expected from aluminium profiles?
Wolfgang Blendl: Safety will continue ranking top of the agenda. Crash-management systems including structural components such as side sills are a development focus at Hydro. Furthermore, more and more aluminium is being used for both car exteriors and interiors – such as roof beams, trims and other decorative components. Hydro operates production sites that specialise in specific alloys for this as well as in coatings and surface finishings for these aesthetic applications.
Looking to the future, fuel cells have the potential of becoming the next big thing. Hydro is already studying the possibilities for using aluminium extrusions in fuel cell housings and feed systems, hybrid pressure tanks and e-motor housings and in power electronics. All the advantages that aluminium holds for battery-driven vehicles also apply to vehicles with fuel cells. This, in turn, will help to make driving cleaner, safer and more pleasant in the future.
20 to 21 June 2018 sees Hydro organise the first “Automotive Lightweight Summit” in Frankfurt. What is the objective?
Wolfgang Blendl: The congress is a summit meeting of key players sharing an interest in aluminium design solutions for the automotive industry and in sustainable development by innovation. With this new platform Hydro assumes even greater responsibility for driving the importance of aluminium products for the entire industry.
Under the heading “Driving Future Solutions” Hydro brings together high-calibre speakers from the automotive industry, the European Union as well as from science. Dr Mark White is one of the keynote speakers. Other speakers include the automotive analyst Mario Franjicevic from IHS and Patrik Ragnarsson from European Aluminium.
At the “Automotive Lightweight Summit” Hydro will present trends and developments in the field of aluminium solutions also including the development of high-performance alloys and surface finishings.