Sricharan R

From the use of aluminium in building bodies for some of the Audi’s most phenomenal models to its use in CVs, a significant material shift in CVs is also underway. An experience of this was had at a recent event conducted by ARAI, showcased a lightweight aluminium bus. This is however not the first instance. Roughly three years ago, Daimler India Commercial Vehicles India announced extensive use of aluminium in the bus bodies for its 917 midi-bus and 2441SHD multi-axle luxury coach. This, the CV major, said would help operators to enjoy superior safety and dial higher efficiency. As new regulations and market requirements demand manufacturers to provide lighter, efficient, reliable and better performing CVs, the use of aluminium is finding increasing use. CV manufacturers are realising that aluminium as a metal has the potential to suffice the requirement of building lightweight vehicles – conventional and electric vehicles – by providing them with an ability to achieve higher efficiency and range for the given size and weight. With CV operators looking at higher uptime and more carrying capacity, aluminium is turning out to be a material of choice as it promises higher profitability.

Offering better acceleration, braking, handling, and fuel efficiency, aluminium is proving to be an attractive material choice against the benchmark of extreme wear and tear, crashworthiness and corrosion-resistance for CVs. Consider the 12 m long lightweight aluminium body bus displayed by ARAI that meets all the regulatory requirements, addresses engineering challenges of strength and durability under Indian road conditions, and the advantages of aluminium are apparent. The bus also highlights an enhancement in human comfort and fuel efficiency (up to 3000 litres per year). Aiding a typical run cycle of a city-bus that includes many stoppages, the lightweight aluminium body bus by ARAI realises a significant reduction in GHG emissions apart from providing an ability to recycle 97 per cent of the superstructure. Better suited for the Indian conditions, according to ARAI director Rashmi Urdhawareshe, the aluminium body bus is rather easily adaptable for electric propulsion over a sheet metal body bus. Capable of compensating for the increased weight of electrification and hybridisation in a bus, aluminium is also finding increasing use in trucks. With power required to move a vehicle having a direct correlation with the mass of the vehicle, the use of aluminium in CVs is growing continuously.

Aluminium in CVs
Accounting for applications like tippers and chassis units, curtain siders, rear door frames, trailer front-ends, sidewalls, and under-run side and rear protection, etc., aluminium is finding use because of a wide spectrum of benefits, many of which have been explained above. Making it suitable for a variety of uses in CVs, it is turning out to be the fastest-growing automotive material over competing materials. Enjoying perhaps the most unprecedented growth phase as far as its use as an automotive material is concerned, as per the latest survey of automakers by Ducker Worldwide (a leading consultancy in the US), aluminium is set to comprise more than 75 per cent of pick-up truck body parts by 2025 the world over. With CV manufacturers in many parts of the world said to be looking at converting the entire body of a vehicle from steel to aluminium, properties like lightweight construction, corrosion resistance, reflectivity, and recyclability are working in aluminium’s favour. Improving safety and durability, aluminium is offering the advantage of being more malleable and rigid. This would translate into better control and the creation of desired shapes that optimise performance.

Providing better shock-resistance, CVs that make higher use of aluminium to derive the benefit of shorter stopping distances are better positioned to prevent a collision due to shorter stopping distances. With close to 90 per cent of automotive aluminium scrap—more than half-million tonnes a year, being recovered and recycled, the use of aluminium in CVs is empowering the auto industry to lower the carbon footprint without sacrificing cost-efficiency. Aluminium intensive vehicles are ensuring less energy consumption as well as fewer CO2 emissions. Found in various forms, aluminium is proving to be the new metal of choice for every CV manufacturer the world over. Consider aluminium extrusion for example: It is highly used in the form of extruded tubes, multi-hole profiles, door beams, bumpers, crash boxes, and side sills. Consider aluminium flat-rolled products. They have a wide range of applications in the auto industry like body panels, interior heat shields, and radiators. Stating that the aluminium content in automobiles is set to increase by 30 per cent globally over the next decade, the Ducker worldwide report has highlighted extruded and flat-rolled products as the ones, which will be the most in-demand. The two, claim industry sources, will open up a huge new ecosystem for secondary aluminium producers.

Stringent CO2 emission norms leading to faster adoption of aluminium, manufacturers are pursuing the goal of reducing the carbon footprint by seeking ever more aesthetic designs. The use of different aluminium alloys is making vehicles easy to work with. Supporting the emergence of new technologies in areas like auto transmission, aluminium is helping CVs to transform themselves. The use of aluminium is set to increase significantly in the manufacture of CVs for certain. As new regulations come into force, the quest for innovative use of aluminium is set to increase further. The biggest advantage of weight saving and an ability to help meet the stringent emission standards is turning aluminium into a metal of choice even if it is costlier than steel. It is about three times more expensive than steel, while it is about twice as expensive in terms of conversion costs. According to a report by the European Aluminium Association, the respective metal is finding increasing use in CVs also because of the ease of surface treatment, cleaning, and repair. Claimed to save roughly 800 kg per articulated vehicle, aluminium is finding increasing use in the manufacture of cabs, doors, chassis, powertrain and suspension parts; in the manufacture of complete rigid body superstructure, in the manufacture of complete tipping body superstructure, in the manufacture of complete ADR fuel tanker, in the manufacture of complete self-discharging body, and in the manufacture of silo-body.

Also finding use in safety parts such as front bumpers, rear bumpers, side bumpers, and front and rear under-run protection, aluminium is finding use in trailer sub-structures, accessories (like air pressure vessels), and components for superstructures like curtain rails, front wall, rear door, sideboards, stanchions and reefer floor. The use of aluminium expected to increase manifold in CVs in the next ten years, no segment will escape the use of it. Providing a distinct advantage of high strength-to-weight and high stiffness-to-weight ratio, aluminium is enabling designs that comprise of smooth transitioning surfaces and clever joints. Undoubtedly easy to work with, aluminium could be easily cut, machined, bent and joined. Making it possible to absorb significantly more crash energy per unit of weight than traditional systems, aluminium is finding use in components as critical as wheels. While it is easy to spot tankers with aluminium wheels, which enables them to carry more load per tanker, the most commonly used alloys include 21100, 42000, 42100, 43000 and 44000.

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