As auto makers aim for a 54.5-mpg (4.3-L/100 km) corporate average fuel economy goal by 2025, aluminum use will soar from 327 lbs. (148 kg) per vehicle in 2009 to 550 lbs. (250 kg) in 2025, a new survey of North American auto makers says. Conducted by Ducker Worldwide, the study also says auto makers’ overall use of aluminum will reach an all-time high of 343 lbs. (156 kg) per vehicle during the 2012 calendar year – up 5% from 2009.

Aluminum use has increased every year for nearly 40 years, Ducker says. As fuel-economy regulations tighten over the next 14 years, auto makers are expected to lower the overall weight of vehicles by about 400 lbs. (181 kg) per vehicle.

Aluminum’s share of the typical vehicle’s mix is predicted to rise from 8% to 16% by 2025, using the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2008 baseline vehicle in which aluminum components total 8% of vehicle curb weight.

According to Ducker, aluminum already is the leading material in powertrain and wheel applications, and the survey says it is quickly gaining market share in hoods, deck lids, doors and bumpers.

Body, bumper and closure content are forecast to grow 58% from 2009 to 2012, and 30% of all hoods on vehicles that will be sold during the 2012 calendar year will be aluminum, the Ducker study says. A total of 20% of all bumpers in 2012 will be aluminum.

According to the report, future growth in auto aluminum will be driven by these and other applications being converted from steel. The trend line for aluminum hood penetration predicts a minimum share of 41% by 2017 and 53% by 2025.

In July, the Obama Admin. announced an agreement with 13 major auto makers to increase fuel economy standards to 54.5 mpg by 2025.

The yet-to-be finalized plan calls for a 5% average annual increase in fuel economy for cars and a 3.5% annual increase for light trucks through 2021. After 2021, both cars and trucks would face a 5% annual increase.

The survey also looked at average aluminum content by North American auto makers. General Motors is the aluminum content leader with 366 lbs. (166 kg) per vehicle. Honda is forecast to lead aluminum content as a percent of curb weight with 10.7% in 2012.

The latest vehicles boasting above-average aluminum content (more than 9% of vehicle curb weight) include the Chevrolet Malibu; Cadillac CTS; Ford Explorer, Focus and Escape; Lincoln MKZ; Honda Civic, CR-V and Accord; Nissan Altima; Toyota Avalon; and Fiat 500, Ducker says.

Analyzing aluminum content by vehicle segment, the survey points to future growth in midsize and large sedans as well as fullsize pickup trucks.

Other highlights from the report:

  • The average increase in aluminum content since 1975 has been 7 lbs. (3.2 kg) per year per light vehicle.
  • The average weight reduction for cars and light trucks will be at least 10% by 2025.
  • Market factors already in place are projected to push aluminum content to 400 lbs. (181 kg) per vehicle in the 2015-2016 time period.
  • Aluminum is gaining market share at the expense of both traditional and high-strength steels, which are declining as a percentage of vehicle weight.
  • Large, D-segment vehicles represent the largest share of each of the five part families considered for conversion to aluminum. The D Segment will contain 363 lbs. (165 kg) of aluminum overall in 2012.
  • E-segment vehicles currently are the most aluminum-intensive with an average aluminum content of 421 lbs. (191 kg).
  • Large body-on-frame vehicles, mainly pickup trucks, contain below-average quantities of structural aluminum components, but a slightly above average amount of aluminum overall at 354 lbs. (161 kg).