New research published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration concludes that advanced high-strength steels (AHSS) are the most cost-effective material for reducing mass in North American vehicles. “Cost models have traditionally associated a significant cost penalty with alternative materials” explained Steel Market Development Institute president Lawrence W. Kavanagh. “This is significant, as automakers have the challenging task of developing affordable vehicles that meet new and tightening regulations.”

Mass Reduction for Light-Duty Vehicles for Model Years 2017-2025was researched by EDAG Inc., George Washington University, and Electricore Inc., on behalf of SMDI, a business unit of the American Iron and Steel Institute.

The study examined mid-size body, chassis, and interior vehicle systems and determined that basic lightweighting costs $0.46/lb. of weight saved ($1.02/kg) using advanced high-strength steels, versus $1.55/lb. ($3.41/ kg) using aluminum.

SMDI also noted that steel’s safety advantages had already been well established: studies by George Washington University verified the crash performance of lightweight vehicles, including a simulated New Car Assessment Program, Frontal, Lateral Moving Deformable Barrier, and Lateral Pole tests. The International Institute for Highway Safety’s Roof, and Frontal Offset tests returned similar confirmation.

“This extraordinary safety performance is due to steel’s unique ability to reinvent itself by continually expanding the range of properties and performance available to the auto design engineer,” according to Kavanagh. “There is no other material that can provide the automotive industry with the complete package necessary to meet CAFE regulations. As a result, steel will remain the preferred material as it enables carmakers to enhance mass reduction, manufacturability and safety at the lowest cost of any material.”

SMDI develops concepts that promote cost-effective applications for steel in the automotive, construction and container markets, and in emerging markets