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Products and solutions, 2012-08-23, 02:34 PM

Now in app form: Material solutions for climate protection

Advanced lightweight steels are the number one automotive material for climate protection. This has been shown by a new study by the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). ThyssenKrupp Steel Europe has made the results available as a user-friendly application for the iPad. The interactive app is particularly easy to use and brings transparency into the selection of automotive materials for climate protection. It is available now in the app store and is free. The name: Autobody LCA.

The study, commissioned by the international steel association WorldSteel and reviewed by independent experts, compares the CO2 emissions of a lightweight steel automotive body and an aluminum body. Instead of looking just at tailpipe emissions, it evaluates the total life cycle, from production of the materials to use of the vehicle to final recycling.

Aluminum versus high-strength steels
Take materials as an example: Yes, aluminum is even lighter than advanced high-strength steel and can therefore achieve bigger CO2 savings during vehicle use. However, average CO2 emissions in the production of a ton of aluminum are currently five times higher than in the production of steel. That’s the figure published by the International Aluminium Institute. The question is, how far does a car have to drive to compensate for this through lower tailpipe emissions compared with a lightweight steel solution. The UCSB model gives the answer: over 200,000 kilometers, based on plausible assumptions. That’s more than most cars travel in their lifetime.

The Californian academics took a very broad approach and investigated several alternatives. The reference for the aluminum versus advanced steel comparison is a conventional steel body. Eight main parameters influence the result of the life cycle analysis, including weight savings through lightweight steels, weight savings through aluminum, secondary weight savings such as in engine, brakes or transmission, assumed electricity mix for aluminum production and credits for recycling. Naturally, the improved fuel economy achieved through weight reduction is also included in the calculation.

iPad app simplifies decisions
Because some of these parameters, for example the recycling credit, are not yet precisely defined, the study evaluates various scenarios based on different assumptions. The numerous parameters and variables make the study very complex, which is why ThyssenKrupp Steel Europe has developed an app for the iPad.

In the app the extensive life cycle analysis is represented by a well-designed and simple graphical user interface featuring knobs for the different parameters and a speedometer-like dial. The knobs are adjusted by sliding a fingertip over the iPad screen. Depending on how the parameters are adjusted, the position of the speedometer needle changes, showing the distance that needs to be traveled for the additional emissions during production to be offset by weight savings in the use phase. The app provides a new and reliable basis for making sound decisions on sustainable mobility.

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