Aluminum is the most abundant metallic element in the Earth’s crust. When used to build new cars and trucks, aluminum reduces the total carbon emissions associated with climate change. It’s also infinitely recyclable, with nearly 75 percent of all aluminum produced since 1888 still in use today.
Auto manufacturers, commercial truck makers and suppliers across the globe are racing to revolutionize cars and trucks to reduce their "carbon footprint" while ensuring they still meet consumer and industry needs. That’s why aluminum use in the automotive sector is at an all-time high and automakers are projecting average vehicle aluminum content to nearly double by 2025.
Reducing weight with aluminum increases a vehicle’s fuel efficiency, which in turn produces fewer tailpipe emissions because lighter vehicles consume less energy (fuel or battery power) to get around.
Aluminum produces lowest total carbon emissions:
Results from a study conducted by the Magnesium Front End Research and Development Project for the Canadian, Chinese and U.S. governments.
Indicated in blue on the slide above, you will see that aluminum has the smallest carbon footprint of competing materials when examining total lifecycle CO2 emissions—20 percent better than steel and 8 percent better than magnesium.
- Every pound of aluminum substituted for traditional steel saves 20 pounds of CO2 emissions over the lifetime of a vehicle. Aluminum components are typically 50% lighter, yet provide more structural stiffness than the heavier components they replace.
- Compared with a fleet of steel vehicles, aluminum use enables an annual net saving of approximately 108 million barrels of crude oil equivalent of energy and an avoidance of 44 million tons of CO2 equivalent in greenhouse gases emissions, according to the Aluminum Association’s report titled The Element of Sustainability.
- Recycling aluminum saves 95% of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with primary aluminum production, and requires only 5% of the energy.
- Nearly 90 percent of automotive aluminum is recovered and recycled.
- Aluminum is infinitely recyclable without degradation to the material.
With help from aluminum, this car produces zero emissions.
Tesla’s Model S is a fully electric car with an all-aluminum body shell and running gear. To offset the added weight of the batteries that power the vehicle, Tesla opted to use aluminum over steel to keep the vehicle’s weight down. The lighter car needs fewer of the expensive batteries, so aluminum helps save money while helping save the planet.