New regulations that will boost the fuel economy of the nation's medium and heavy-duty truck vehicle fleet recognize the importance of mass reduction technologies such as aluminum to help reach these goals.
On August 16, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) jointly finalized a new rule requiring that trucking efficiencies improve up to 25% by 2027 in an effort to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the nation's freight transportation activities.
From combination tractors and the trailers they pull to vocational vehicles such as delivery trucks and school buses to heavy duty pickups and vans—aluminum componentry including wheels, extrusions, and sheet is cited as part of the lightweighting solution to help move the nation's freight with less fuel and fewer emissions.
As these standards are implemented, the aluminum industry plans to work closely with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and their suppliers on cost-effective vehicle mass reduction and freight efficiency, which can help manufacturers and fleets meet the new standards, phasing in starting with the 2018 model year.
"We're pleased that the agencies recognized the contribution that aluminum—along with other lightweight material solutions—can play in helping OEMs meet the ambitious new targets set out in the rule,” says Curt Wells, Director of Regulatory Affairs at the Aluminum Association. “The aluminum industry is committed to working closely with customers throughout the supply chain to help develop vehicle efficiency solutions.”
The Aluminum Association works to provide robust, credible and accurate data for OEMs as well as the EPA, NHTSA and other regulatory agencies on the benefits of aluminum lightweighting on fuel economy and GHG emissions. Mass reduction using aluminum is a technology for achieving improved road vehicle fuel economy and CO2 emissions performance, and over the past 40 years aluminum use in automotive, light-duty and heavy-duty vehicles has increased steadily.
Since 1975, aluminum consumption in the road vehicle market has grown by more than 4 billion lb. The industry has responded to meet the needs of this growing sector and is committed to continued increases in capacity. Since 2013, Aluminum Association member companies have announced U.S. plant expansions and planned investment totaling more than $2.6 billion to grow domestic aluminum capacity for the transportation market.
Additionally, the aluminum industry has a history of working with transportation market manufacturers throughout the supply chain in the development of vehicle efficiency improvement. That work continues across the medium- and heavy-duty vehicle market, which now includes a first-time regulatory focus on trailer efficiencies, as these new standards are finalized and implementation of the requirements begin. The aluminum industry also continues to develop new alloys and improved componentry as well as pursue new aluminum joining methods that will enable increased integration of aluminum and non-aluminum components into next generation medium- and heavy-duty vehicle designs.
The weight and emission benefits that result from using aluminum in heavy-duty trucks are significant. Research conducted by Ricardo Consulting Engineers has shown that an "aluminum-intensive" Class 8 commercial tractor-trailer can reduce vehicle weight by 3,300 lb. For every 10% of weight reduction, up to a 5.5% improvement in fuel economy is possible. The study also found that substituting the nation's fleet of Class 8 tractor-trailers with aluminum-intensive models would save 9.3 million tons of CO2 annually.