3rd Canada 9th Norway 2nd Russia 10th Bahrain Top 10 worldwide aluminium producers 4th USA 8th Brazil 5th UAE 7th India 6th Australia 1st China Aluminium has no limit on the amount of times it can be recycled and recycling aluminium today only uses 5% of the energy required to make new aluminium ingot (while creating 92% less greenhouse gas emissions) 90 62 4 75% tonnes of bauxite produces one tonne of aluminum – enough to make 60,000 soft drink cans ...of the weight of the Earth’s solid surface is aluminium billion aluminium cans are consumed in the US each year billion of which are recycled. The energy saved equates to 19 million barrels of crude oil, enough to fuel more than 1.7 million cars for a year In numbers of all primary aluminium ever produced since 1888 is still in productive use Uses of aluminium 17% Packaging 10% Machine and Plant Engineering 20 10 5 5% Other 25% Transport 25% Construction 12% Electro-technics 6% Consumer goods INFOGRAPHIC: PETER STADDEN 44 j THE PERFORMANCE ISSUE
TECHNOLOGY = 3 HOURS Recycling one aluminum can save enough energy to run your television for three hours Current planes consist mainly of aluminium and its alloys but there is room for further refinement. “New developments include structural components with metallic foam cores which are very light and have a high capacity to absorb noise,” says Monash University’s Polmear. “They are expensive but already used for panels in some aircraft and trains”. Alu alloys are able to keep up with steel too. “Aluminium is less strong than iron-based alloys,” continues Brunel University’s Eskin, “but in specific strength it competes well with steel. Indeed, some alu alloys and composites surpass steel in specific strength”. Steel may be cheaper than its lighter brother but the use of aluminium is spreading fast. There are skyscrapers clad with aluminium, trains that reach record speeds thanks in part to their aluminium construction and the gleaming stuff is increasingly used in the automotive industry as brands seek to reduce weight and improve fuel efficiency. Jaguar has always been a forerunner in aluminium with a history of working with the metal that can be traced to 1929 in its previous incarnation as The Swallow Sidecar Company. Its cars’ coachwork back then was distinctive for using aluminium panels and was longer-lasting compared to its contemporaries that merely used a fabric construction. Today, Jaguar is arguably the leading automaker in the use of aluminium. “A great example is the 2002 XJ,” says Mark White, chief technical specialist, Body Complete at Jaguar Land Rover. “On that car we achieved a weight saving across the vehicle of more than 200kg versus the outgoing car, but actually improved all of the vehicle’s attributes”. Even today White is impressed by the durability of the car, “which has been through more than 10 Swedish winters and still looks as good as new, with no signs of corrosion or old age.” White is confident about Jaguar’s current crop of cars too. “Our aluminium-bodied XJ, XK, XE and F-TYPE could last for many decades to become future classics” – which is a nice perspective for every Jaguar driver to hear. One further crucial advantage of aluminium compared to other lightweight materials like carbon fibre, is its high recyclability. “Re-melting scrap aluminium only requires about 5% of the energy needed to extract the primary metal from its ore bauxite,” says Polmear. His ONLY ALUMINIUM COULD ONE DAY CREATE THE SITUATION WHERE THE INDUSTRY IS ABLE TO PROVIDE ITSELF WITH ALL THE RAW MATERIAL IT NEEDS. WHAT A PERFECT CIRCLE THAT WOULD BE academic colleague Eskin agrees and adds: “Aluminium is well-suited for recycling because it does not rust like steel and is normally used in structures that are predominantly aluminium which makes separation easy.” But Eskin voices a note of caution regarding the types of high-strength alloys and composites used in vehicle manufacturing: “They need to be carefully sorted before recycling, which is a technological problem under current scrutiny.” Because of this very issue Jaguar Land Rover is working on implementing closed-loop recycling for all its manufacturing plants and suppliers. One very important step was the development of a new recycled alloy established with the aluminium company Novelis. “Our goal is to get to 75% recycled alloy in all our products by 2020 and this alloy is a key enabler,” says White. “Novelis is also building an automotive recycling centre in Europe to meet demand as part of our overall environmental sustainability strategy.” So despite some concerns about the energy-intensive production of primary aluminium, building cars with this lightweight material has the potential to be very sustainable indeed. It could be the answer to the challenges of car manufacturing today and in the future. Aluminium balances “performance, fuel economy, CO 2 reduction and lifecycle analysis” says White, “and we will continue to be intelligent in how we use it as part of a range of materials”. It might be more expensive than steel and heavier than carbon fibre but in many cases, aluminium beats both. And only aluminium could one day create the situation where the industry is able to provide itself with all the raw material it needs. What a perfect circle that would be. THE PERFORMANCE ISSUE j 45
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The fuel consumption figures provided are as a result of official manufacturer's tests in accordance with EU legislation.
A vehicle's actual fuel consumption may differ from that achieved in such tests and these figures are for comparative purposes only.