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For the sake of the environment, carmakers are trying all sorts of methods, including substitution of materials, to reduce the weight of their products. Shown is Mazda's SKYACTIV-Body which, with increased use of high-tensile steels, weighs 8% less than its predecessor according to the Japanese carmaker.
For the sake of the environment, carmakers are trying all sorts of methods, including substitution of materials, to reduce the weight of their products. Shown is Mazda's SKYACTIV-Body which, with increased use of high-tensile steels, weighs 8% less than its predecessor according to the Japanese carmaker.
According to Frost & Sullivan, the lightweight automotive material market earned revenues of US$38 billion in 2010 and this figure will reach US$95.34 billion in 2017, driven by the need to conform to environmental regulations.

As far as lightweight automotive metals are concerned, the 2010 market was US$20,698.1 million by revenue and 10.3 million tons by volume. The market intelligence company projects the automotive metal market to grow to US$59,805.6 million in 2017 at a CAGR of 16.4%. Aluminum remains at the forefront of automotive metals usage, both in terms of value and volume.

Frost & Sullivan also suggests that exterior and Body-In-White (BIW) components are likely to witness more of metal-metal substitution. Aluminum remains the leading material of choice for exterior body panels, whereas for BIW structures, Advanced High-Strength Steel (AHSS) is expected to replace lower grade steels.

Coming to automotive plastics, the market was US$17,305.7 million by revenue and 5.5 million tons by volume in 2010, and it is predicted to grow to US$35,536.2 million in 2017 at a CAGR of 10.8%. Polypropylene remains at the forefront of automotive plastics usage, both in terms of value and volume, Frost & Sullivan forecasts.

Interior and under-the-hood components are likely to witness more of plastics-plastics substitution, the company suggests. The majority of the plastics are targeting metal replacement given on-going trend of weight reduction of vehicles.

Frost & Sullivan remarks that among all lightweight materials, aluminum leads in volume and revenue, while polymers are finding an increasing number of takers, mainly due to the low cost-to-performance ratio depending upon part size, shape and complexity. The adoption rate of plastics will be low in structural parts, which require robust impact resistance properties, the company adds.

Frost & Sullivan says governments across the world have been passing laws mandating reductions in fuel consumption and/or carbon emissions. These laws have resulted in the lowering of vehicles' weight through the replacement of heavy materials in certain systems with lighter alternatives, as the weight of the automobile has a direct bearing on its fuel efficiency.

"These laws also challenge OEMs to find innovative solutions to comply with them and still stay profitable," says Sandeepan Mondal, Senior Research Analyst, Frost & Sullivan.

As an example, the end-of-life directive in Europe compels automakers to minimize the waste created when a vehicle reaches the end of its useful life. On one hand, it encourages the incorporation of recyclable lightweight materials in passenger vehicles; on the other hand, it hinders the market growth of thermosets and carbon composites.

While lightweight materials decrease the overall weight and emissions, they hike the costs considerably at the same time. The business of both OEMs and tier-I suppliers took a hit during the economic downturn and in such unfavorable economic conditions, they will unlikely be enthusiastic about shifting from a metal-based assembly to alternative materials, the report suggests.
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