U.S. EPA/NHTSA move to cut GHG emissions, increase fuel efficiency for medium, heavy trucks factors in role of aluminum; Alcoa says ruling cites study showing use of aluminum as lightweighting option can help meet targets

Liling Tan

Liling Tan

Aug 15, 2011 – Business Wire

NEW YORK , August 15, 2011 (press release) – Alcoa (NYSE:AA) and the aluminum industry play a major role in the new effort to reduce GHG emissions and increase fuel efficiency for medium and heavy trucks and buses announced last week by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The first-of-their-kind fuel efficiency and emission standards are projected to save businesses that own and operate commercial vehicles approximately $50 billion in fuel costs over the life of the program.

The final rules call for trucks and buses built in 2014 through 2018 to reduce oil consumption by a projected 530 million barrels and greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution by approximately 270 million metric tons. The rules cite many levers that can be used to achieve the goals, including the increased use of lightweight materials such as aluminum. In fact, cited in the final rules is a study conducted by Alcoa that shows the potential to save 3,500 to 4,500 pounds across a tractor-trailer combination through the increased use of aluminum in frame rails, wheels, and fifth wheels.

The new rules go on to say, “…the DOE reviewed prospective light-weighting alternative materials and found that aluminum has potential to reduce mass by 40-60%, which is in line with the estimates…provided by Alcoa and the Aluminum Association” (page 101 of rules).

The agencies also reviewed the use of many alternative materials to help improve fuel efficiency and lower GHG emissions. “Based on this analysis, the agencies developed an expanded list of weight reduction opportunities for the final rulemaking (table 11-9).” The table shows nearly 30 technologies and the potential weight savings of each using aluminum or steel. In nearly each instance the savings from aluminum is at least twice that of steel and in some instances the benefits of aluminum are five times those of steel.

For example using aluminum to develop frame rails for a truck, instead of the steel currently used, would save 440 pounds while using high-strength steel would save 87 pounds. And brake drums made of aluminum would save 140 pounds compared with 11 pounds of savings from steel.

“The goals to reduce emissions and increase fuel efficiency found in these new rules are obviously spot-on,” said Helmut Wieser, Alcoa Executive Vice President and Group President Alcoa Global Rolled Products and head of the Company’s Ground Transportation market team. “The good news for OEM’s, owners and operators is that there are safe technologies and solutions ready right now to help them achieve the targets.

“Aluminum is a key part of the solution. Just as with auto makers and their new fuel efficiency goals under CAFÉ, light weighting with aluminum is both a driver for meeting these goals, but also is an enabler for cost reduction through savings in other aspects of the vehicle such as drive trains.”

Attached is Table 11-9 from the new rules. (http://www.businesswire.com/cgi-bin/mmg.cgi?eid=6830041&lang=en)

The complete rules may be found at http://www.nhtsa.gov/staticfiles/rulemaking/pdf/cafe/FR-EO12866_GHG+Fuel_Stds_Med-Heavy_Vehicles.pdf

About Alcoa

Alcoa is the world’s leading producer of primary and fabricated aluminum, as well as the world’s largest miner of bauxite and refiner of alumina. In addition to inventing the modern-day aluminum industry, Alcoa innovation has been behind major milestones in the aerospace, automotive, packaging, building and construction, commercial transportation, consumer electronics and industrial markets over the past 120 years. Among the solutions Alcoa markets are flat-rolled products, hard alloy extrusions, and forgings, as well as Alcoa® wheels, fastening systems, precision and investment castings, and building systems in addition to its expertise in other light metals such as titanium and nickel-based super alloys. Sustainability is an integral part of Alcoa’s operating practices and the product design and engineering it provides to customers. Alcoa has been a member of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for nine consecutive years and approximately 75 percent of all of the aluminum ever produced since 1888 is still in active use today. Alcoa employs approximately 59,000 people in 31 countries across the world. More information can be found at www.alcoa.com.

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