For the government, the future of fuel economy is up in the air.
Before leaving the White House, the Obama administration did their best to make their Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards the new permanent standard. But the Trump administration quickly announced that once a full review of CAFE standards was performed, they would probably relax the 2025 targets put in place by the previous administration. That assessment and recommendation is coming soon.
It stands to reason that relaxed CAFE standards would decrease the demand for aluminum—the metal many manufacturers adopted in order to make vehicles lighter and, therefore, more fuel efficient. But that’s not the case.
If you thought your shop may have dodged the aluminum bullet and won’t need to focus attention and dedicate resources to repairing aluminum…well, not so fast. A few weeks ago, the American Journal of Transportation declared “Unprecedented Growth Expected for Automotive Aluminum.”
What gives? Consumers. They’re driving demand for larger vehicles—but they still want the most fuel-efficient vehicles possible. That means OEMs are still speeding to drop vehicle weight as much as possible, as fast as possible. As it seems to be turning out, America is a country by the people, for the people—even when it comes to fuel economy.
To see this effect, you only need to take a look at aluminum by the numbers according to the American Journal of Transportation:
- Since 2013, aluminum manufacturers have invested or plan on future investments totaling more than $2 billion to increase their manufacturing capacity
- By 2020, close to 9 billion pounds of aluminum will be used in lightweight vehicles manufactured in North America
- Between 2015 and 2020, that’s an increase of 69 pounds of aluminum per vehicle
- This increase is being driven by the conversion to aluminum in steering knuckles, structural vacuum die-cast parts, crash management systems and closures
- Total aluminum content in new vehicles is predicted to increase from 397 pounds in 2015 to 565 pounds in 2028
- 565 pounds per vehicle is more than 15% of total curb mass
The moral of this story: don’t slack on your aluminum skills, training and equipment just because the government may intervene in the current path of fuel efficiency standards. You still need to prepare for the possibility that you just might double your aluminum repairs in the not-so-distant future.