If you've been following installation rates of aluminum radiators lately, you'd think copper was doomed as a long-term radiator material.

Not so, argues the International Copper Association (ICA), which says copper/brass radiators are superior to aluminum in life-cycle energy consumption. "Copper combined with brass may once again be the metal of choice for new-car radiators," it says, basing this conclusion on a recent technical analysis it made comparing the red metal to aluminum

Profiling radiators of equal weight (5.5 lbs./2.5 kg) in identical vehicles, the analysis found the copper/brass models to be lower in life-cycle energy consumption than the aluminum models: 336kWh vs. 426kWh.

Johan Scheel, ICA's director of industrial programs, says aluminum's low density has made it the choice for most new-car radiators in the U.S. and Europe, but copper/brass radiators still predominate in Japanese cars, commercial vehicles and worldwide aftermarkets. He says copper/brass radiators also are becoming more favorable because of advances in their manufacture and design.

In particular, Mr. Scheel says the next generation of copper/brass radiators now being tested in the U.S. will be lighter and stronger than conventional soldered copper/brass radiators because no-flux (lead-free) brazing can be done in the same brazing furnaces used for aluminum radiators. Even more than today's versions, the advanced variety will be easier to recycle, less costly to repair and more efficient and durable than aluminum radiators, with an expected life of up to 10 years, Mr. Scheel says.