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Prospects for lightweight magnesium alloys

Categories: ZCMIM NewsStars: 3StarsVisit: -Release time: 2019-08-08 08:32:00
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In order to improve the fuel efficiency of cars and reduce their exhaust emissions, it is essential to reduce the weight of cars. To do this, it is wise to use magnesium alloys to make suitable car parts. As the lightest structural metal, magnesium is 75% lighter than steel and about 33% lighter than aluminum.

A consortium of the automotive research council, automotive materials partners of America, in its report, "magnesium 2020: the north American automotive industry's strategic vision for magnesium" noted that magnesium has higher specific strength, ductility and impact resistance than aluminum. Magnesium provides better damping and impact resistance than steel. Compared with plastics, magnesium has higher strength and stiffness, as well as better thermal stability and thermal conductivity.

In addition, magnesium's material properties offer a number of benefits to improve fuel economy and reduce emissions, the report said. Because magnesium alloys can be cast into a complete large-size part, rather than having to be composed of many individual parts like steel parts, which are prone to friction and vibration, automobile noise can be minimized. Because magnesium castings can be cheaper than same steel parts (especially when yearly quantity less than 200, 000pcs), manufacturing costs can be reduced. Processing cost of magnesium castings is lower than that of steel stamping parts which consist of multiple parts because each stamping part requires a corresponding die. For example, a 30-part steel panel beam required 30 sets tooling to make, while only 6 sets tooling are required by magnesium cast beam. However, the average weight of magnesium alloy parts in cars made by U.S. automakers is only about 12 pounds, or about 0.3 percent of a car's total material. In fact, magnesium is not widely used in cars because it costs more than some competing materials. Because of their competitive nature, companies more tend to use cheaper materials. The decline use of magnesium alloy parts is partly due to the financial crisis and automotive industry's difficulties a few years ago, which led to a decline in mold manufacturer in north America.

In a report about average materials net weight change of light vehicles by  Ducker Worldwide estimates that magnesium alloy parts will increase from about 8 pounds per vehicle in 2008 to 22 pounds per vehicle in 2025. This increase will be entirely concentrated on transmission components (mainly intake manifold). Magnesium alloy drives and boxes may eventually replace aluminum alloy drives and boxes, but will not be used in structural parts. By 2025, this change in vehicle materials, combined with a 2 per cent reduction in manufacturing, will reduce the average inertial weight and average vehicle weight (net weight) by 10 per cent and 10.6 per cent, respectively, compared with 2008 levels. The company estimates that magnesium usage will increase to 22 pounds per vehicle by 2025. A combination of 44 percent adoption of hybrid electric vehicles and appropriate changes in engine size could achieve 51 MPG by 2025 without compromising safety, performance, functionality or comfort.

Currently, magnesium alloy components are used for chassis, interior, exterior, and drivetrain components in U.S. vehicles. European cars tend to use more magnesium alloy parts, with increased applications including wheels, chassis front-end frames, cushions and backrests, powertrain gearboxes (manual and automatic) and even cylinder bodies (which can greatly reduce engine weight). With more mountain roads in Europe, europeans are more interested in vehicle handling.

Magnesium is more expensive in U.S. than in Europe because the U.S. international trade commission, which controls raw material imports, imposes countervailing duties on magnesium imports from China, where most of the magnesium is made. About 85% of the world's magnesium is produced in China. Tariffs effectively keep magnesium from China out of the U.S. market. In North America, magnesium is the only American producer. If a car with an in-line six-cylinder engine USES magnesium instead of aluminum, steel, iron, zinc or plastic to make all the right parts, the total amount of magnesium would be about 380 pounds, and the car would lose 300 pounds. Automakers can achieve 75 percent of fuel economy by improving powertrain, gearbox and stop/start technology, while the remaining 25 percent needs to be achieved through vehicle lightweight, in which magnesium will play an important role.

Keywords in the article: magnesium alloys
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