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.
Last week, 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 percent by 2027 in an effort to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the nation’s freight transportation activities.
Across the spectrum of the new rule — 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 components, including wheels, extrusions and sheet are 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 solutions that 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,” said 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 has long worked 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 proven and cost-effective 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 pounds.
The aluminum industry continues to develop new alloys and improved components 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 pounds. For every 10 percent of weight reduction, up to a 5.5 percent 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.