Automotive Aluminum Applications

Gary S. Vasilash

Where do you think the greatest amount of aluminum, by weight, is used in a vehicle?

According to Randall Scheps, chairman of the Aluminum Association’s Transportation Group, it is for the wheels.

During a presentation at the 2012 SAE World Congress, Scheps showed a chart indicating that in 2012 some 790-million pounds of aluminum will be used to produce wheels. A close second is transmissions, at 785-million pounds.

Arguably, it is under the hood where the real aluminum application is, however. That is, cylinder blocks account for 636-million pounds and cylinder heads 588-million pounds, so looked at as a combination, that’s 1,244-million pounds. (There is also a category called “Other Engine,” which accounts for an additional 371-million pounds.)


Jaguar XFR: A poster car for automotive aluminum use

When many people think about the use of materials like aluminum for auto applications, their attention tends to go straight to body panels—hoods and doors and such.

According to Scheps’ data, closures account for 126-million pounds, which puts them between brake parts at 130-million pounds and steering knuckles at 115-million pounds.

Of course if you think about it, the average thickness of an aluminum closure panel is on the order of just 1 mm, so compared to a wheel or a block, the amount of metal involved is a whole lot lighter. Which is, of course, the reason the material is used.