Lightweighting’s function is evolving within the EV age

Lightweighting’s function is evolving within the EV age


Because the world goes electrical, automobile weight discount concerns have grow to be extra difficult. By Patrick Schaufuss and Stephan Fuchs

Taking weight out of a automobile remains to be a purpose, however the causes have modified. Because the automotive trade embraces electrical mobility, the motivation for adopting light-weight designs has shifted basically. In the course of the present battery-electric automobile (BEV) interval, the purpose is to increase automobile vary with the smallest attainable battery. As battery prices fall, the purpose will possible stretch to making sure a low-carbon manufacturing footprint. It will imply shifting to low-carbon supplies like ultra-high-strength steels as an alternative of aluminium or carbon fibre strengthened polymers (CFRP). Moreover, the selection of supplies might sooner or later mirror carbon dioxide (CO2) targets throughout the automobile’s complete lifecycle.

Evolving lightweighting considerations

One of many key components—apart from aerodynamics, driving type, and many others—which might be driving emissions from inside combustion engine (ICE) automobiles is automobile weight, which has pushed lightweighting efforts on this phase. Nevertheless, the motivation for BEVs to cut back weight is totally different. On BEVs, balancing battery prices in opposition to automobile weight turned vital within the early days of the trendy trade, when high-cost batteries and decrease vitality recuperation prospects drove lightweighting methods. Now, as battery prices drop, extra environment friendly electrical drivetrains and better recuperation charges are the norm, and OEMs have begun to change again to standard supplies. Our evaluation reveals most doorways on first- and second-generation BEVs featured aluminium, and a few bodies-in-white (BIW) have been made out of CFRP. Right now, the most recent BEVs usually have metal BIW and doorways.

Because the automotive trade embraces electrical mobility, the motivation for adopting light-weight designs has shifted basically

A brand new deal with CO2 footprint

A brand new optimisation dimension is coming into play at present—the automobile’s CO2 footprint. Whereas at present greater than 90% of emissions from (primarily ICE) automobiles come from the operations, this can change sooner or later: As tailpipe emissions lower, emissions from automobiles’ supplies will improve each completely and comparatively and shortly grow to be a bigger share of lifecycle emissions. We estimate that the rising market share of BEVs which have greater baseline materials emissions—and the altering vitality combine required to energy them—will increase materials emissions from about 5-10% of a automobiles’ lifecycle emissions at present to greater than 90% in a clear grid combine (see picture beneath).

Analysis reveals light-weight supplies are sometimes energy- and carbon-intensive. Some examples with early estimates on their CO2 footprint embody CFRP, which generates between 30 and 100 kg CO2 per kg CFRP produced. Virgin aluminium in China generates as much as 20 kg CO2/kg, virgin aluminium (international benchmark) 4 kg CO2/kg and recycled aluminium 2.3 kg CO2/kg. Steel generates 2.6 kg CO2/kg, with inexperienced metal at 0.7 kg CO2/kg

Composite supplies have nice light-weight potential however require important quantities of vitality to supply and are tough to recycle, thus limiting their utility. Total, the BEV CO2 footprint additionally will depend on the nation of manufacturing and its vitality combine.

Future lightweighting tendencies

Within the near-term, light-weight designs will stay related for ICEVs, however BEVs will in the end change these automobiles. For the latest BEVs, we anticipate light-weight designs to play solely a minor function.

OEMs will possible deal with optimising three components:  the price of the battery; the prices of lightweighting efforts and supplies; and the automobile’s CO2 footprint, which incorporates manufacturing and doubtlessly lifecycle emissions sooner or later. This effort will possible lead to elevated switching to inexperienced low-level-lightweight supplies, akin to inexperienced metal and inexperienced (U)HSS.

Tomorrow’s light-weight supplies purposes

Low-volume excessive efficiency vehicles will in all probability stay enticing for light-weight supplies, pushed by efficiency objectives and decrease sensitivity to price and CO2 penalties. Moreover, supplies with excessive weight or efficiency traits akin to CFRP may additionally profit from their reputations as unique luxurious items. In low-volume purposes, CFRP has a decrease price hole to different supplies than in mass-market segments and may provide better design freedom.

Different low-volume automobile OEMs are additionally experimenting with new supplies, akin to thermoformed panels produced from polypropylene and fibres. Such efforts might spill into mass-market purposes in the event that they handle to beat price, CO2, and recyclability points.

In regards to the authors: Patrick Schaufuss is a Companion and Stephan Fuchs is a Senior Companion at McKinsey & Firm


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September 2022