Aluminium in transport and transportation: for lightness of movement

As soon as we embark on any type of journey nowadays aluminium is usually there with us. Whether it be by car, rail, sea or air. High stability coupled with light weight ensures transport is economical and environmentally friendly. In the age of mobility, aluminium is thus the material of choice. Almost half of the total demand for aluminium in Germany is used in the transport and transportation sector. Photo: Ranger Rover Velar, © Jaguar Land Rover Germany

Aluminium content of cars (production in Western Europe), estimated

The demand for aluminium in the car industry has increased considerably in the past few decades. According to estimates, the aluminium content of cars produced in Europe between 1978 and 2015 went up from 32 kg to 160 kg. The absolute demand for aluminium for use in wheels/chassis, engine/powertrain, internal fittings and the body is continually increasing.

Ecological and economic mobility

It is possible to reduce the weight of a vehicle by up to a third by using aluminium in car-making, and thereby save considerable amounts of fuel. A weight reduction of 100 kg saves about four litres of fuel per 1000 km. The emission of pollutants is reduced accordingly. The material’s light weight also results in other tangible benefits: for example, modern buses with aluminium bodies are several hundred kilograms lighter than those built using conventional methods of construction. This increases the number of people that can be transported for a given maximum permitted weight and reduces running costs, the benefits of which are reaped to the full given the large distances buses travel and the frequent stops and starts they make at bus stops; in view of the chronic financial shortages faced by local authorities, this is an important aspect when acquiring new vehicles. With a truck and trailer, it is possible to save up to several tonnes in weight by material substitution in the driver's cab, frames and crossbeams, hubs, wheels, engine parts and gearbox casings and thus achieve correspondingly higher payloads. With tipping semi-trailers, using aluminium for the body and chassis allows payloads to be increased by 1.5 tonnes, and even by 2.5 tonnes in the case of large volume tippers. For owners, aluminium pays for itself. On top of this there is aluminium’s outstanding corrosion resistance: unlike ferrous materials, for example, aluminium does not rust.

Also fulfilling the highest demands in shipbuilding

Modern ships are fast and manoeuvrable while being light, stable, able to withstand stress and durable. The aluminium alloys used to build ships and yachts today allow these requirements to be met without any reservations. Thanks to intensive research and development efforts, modern aluminium-based materials are even stronger, more resistant to corrosion, even in seawater, and defy rain, wind and weather, regardless of whether it is a sailing boat, a yacht, a ferry or a luxury liner. Photo credit: KM Yachtbuilders

Rail travel is faster and more modern

In the early days, railways were referred to as ‘the iron way’. A bygone era, because today many load-bearing elements of a train as well as, for example, the carriage bodies of the ICE, are being made completely from aluminium. It is this that makes speeds of over 350 km/h by rail at all possible. Four out of every five carriage bodies for underground and local trains in Western Europe are now manufactured from aluminium. Perhaps now the term ‘the aluminium way’ would be more appropriate. Photo credit: Siemens-AG

Highest possible loading for the aerospace industry

In the manufacture of aircraft, aluminium offers a happy medium between manufacturing costs, low density, high strength and corrosion resistance. Aluminium components withstand the highest possible loading: thanks to special aluminium alloys, the fuselage, wings and stabiliser are resistant to fatigue and failure even after many years of operation despite the large number of take-offs and landings with the extremely demanding acceleration and braking this involves. Photo credit: istock

The Airbus A380