Cutting the weight of vehicles has become crucial, and steel has a big role to play

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Lighter, stronger steel

The S-in motion project to reduce the weight of cars is helping to ensure steel will continue to be a material of choice in vehicles in the future

One of the major success stories of ArcelorMittal’s recent automotive research and development (R&D) has been the S-in motion project.

With car manufacturers under growing pressure to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to meet pressing targets, decreasing the weight of vehicles has become a critical requirement.

So ArcelorMittal embarked on S-in motion, a collaborative effort between our R&D laboratories in North America and Europe. Working on the project were more than 600 technicians and engineers, who were tasked with developing methods by which the weight of steel components in vehicles could be substantially reduced.

Over two years, the team combined efforts and innovative thinking to demonstrate how up to 19% of weight can be reduced from a modern five-door C-segment vehicle body-in-white and chassis using pioneering steel grades and manufacturing processes. The result is a reduction in a vehicle’s CO2 emissions but, crucially, without compromising the strength or safety of the vehicle.

With the risk of car manufacturers turning to alternative materials in their search for weight loss, the S-in motion project is a critical piece of innovation not only for ArcelorMittal but also for steel in general – ensuring that it will continue to be a material of choice for vehicles in the future.

The initiative was recognised at American Metal Market’s 2011 Awards for Steel Excellence, held in conjunction with the Steel Success Strategies Conference, which selected S-in motion for the Best Products & Process Innovation award, and praised the company’s continuous commitment to producing groundbreaking steel for the automotive sector.

Innovation in technology and product

The weight reduction comes from advanced engineering techniques, such as the innovative use of advanced high strength steels, hot stamping technology, laser welded blanks and tubular products. And crucially, although these processes use more high-specification grades, the volume of steel used is significantly less, so there is no increase in overall cost – which benefits both manufacturers and consumers.

And the carbon-reducing advantages of these cutting-edge manufacturing techniques do not only benefit the vehicle during its active life. A study by the University of California at Santa Barbara has determined that compared with other materials, the production and recycling processes of steel have significantly less environmental impact. The materials used in S-in motion add to an estimated 15% reduction in CO2 equivalent emissions during production.

Jean-Luc Thirion, head of automotive product portfolio, global research and development, sums up the advantages of S-in motion to the automotive industry. “It is a 19% weight reduction that doesn’t cost anything,” he says. “This is going to keep cars affordable in the future and still provide for substantial improvements in fuel economy as well as CO2 reduction.”

“A key way to reduce emissions is to make the car lighter, and at ArcelorMittal we have led the way in ensuring steel remains highly competitive and efficient against other alternative materials by developing steel products that are lighter, yet remain strong and cost-effective.”

Lou Schorsch, head of R&D and automotive