Here is today’s other baffling science story: In its quest to save weight, Volkswagen is ripping aluminum out of plans and bills-of–material, to replace it – with steel. Not good old steel. They replace it with much better new steel. According to Reuters, “Volkswagen AG is using new high-strength steel to make cars lighter and comply with strict emissions rules, confounding forecasts that aluminum would be the metal of choice for reducing weight.”
High tensile steel is up to six times stronger than conventional steel, and helped Volkswagen reduce the new Golf’s weight by about 100 kg, while also saving money. “Aluminum is about a third of the weight of conventional steel but costs three times as much,” says Reuters (let them answer the fuming mails by irate nerds who insist that such a statement is utter nonsense.)
“Volkswagen is using high-strength steels in increasing amounts. It is a very cost effective way of reducing weight,” Armin Plath, VW’s head of materials research and manufacturing, told Reuters in an interview. “Using new innovations in steel engineering… it is possible to reduce weight without the use for more costly materials such as aluminum and carbon fiber.” Volkswagen uses hot formed advanced high strength and ultra-high-strength steel. Other companies also increasingly use these materials.
However, Volkswagen may have to change its mind after all. Said Plath:
“If you now want to go beyond what is currently achievable, then maybe it will be required to use other materials such as aluminum and fiber re-enforced plastics.”