Bigger Than the Bin: Auto Recycling is Driven by Steel

It’s no small irony that one of the most recycled products in the world is too big for the recycling bin. Yet, each year nearly every car taken off the road is recycled for its steel content. In fact, the very roots of automobile recycling lie in the steel industry’s need for ferrous scrap.

Steel is most frequently the material of choice for vehicle manufacturing, as it is strong, durable, affordable and sustainable. As our nation’s fleet of vehicles grew, manufacturers and scrap processors alike came to realize the additional benefits of steel’s infinite recyclability. In the United States, each year around 14 million tons of steel is recycled from automobiles. Because of the economic and environmental benefits of recycling automotive steel, vehicles are too valuable of a resource to simply bury in a landfill when they are no longer in service.

Realizing the importance of end-of-life scenarios for a giant fleet of automobiles, car manufacturers are designing their vehicles with a long-term view of how the components can be refurbished, reused or recycled. And when these vehicles are made from steel, the car is both made with recycled content and is recyclable at the end of its use. Steel scrap is part of the process in making new steel.  As a result, automakers have been using recycled material to make new cars for decades.

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How much recycled material? Over half of an automobile is made of steel and iron, and all of these steel car parts contain a minimum of 25 percent recycled steel. However, many internal steel and iron parts such as engine blocks are made using an even higher percentage of recycled steel.

The steel industry has also made great strides in the production of steel to minimize the environmental impact, and has designed new lighter, stronger steels to increase vehicle safety and fuel economy.

How do cars become steel scrap?

The steel industry, together with the scrap processing industry, is responsible for laying the groundwork for the efficient recycling infrastructure for automobiles that exists today. In an effort to provide more steel scrap to the growing steel industry and reduce the vehicle’s end-of-life impact on the environment, the two industries worked collectively in the early 1960s to develop the first automobile shredders. Today, a network of dismantlers and shredders effectively process the millions of vehicles taken off the road each year.

Automobile Dismantlers

Automobiles begin their end-of-life journey with a brief but essential stop at one of the estimated 7,000 automobile dismantlers in North America. Auto dismantlers remove potentially hazardous materials and salvage selected components. Selected items such as engines and transmissions, as well as other auto parts in relatively good condition, are resold to the public or auto repair garages and body shops.

Even a car in the very worst shape may still contain some valuable working parts that can be used to repair other vehicles. These car dismantlers remove tires, batteries, fluids and any reusable parts. Selected items such as engines and transmissions, as well as other auto parts in relatively good condition, are resold to the public or auto repair garages and body shops. After removing reusable components, auto hulks are flattened and shipped to a scrap processor, where they are weighed for payment and unloaded.

Scrap Processors

After removing reusable components, auto hulks are flattened and shipped to a scrap processor, where they are weighed for payment and unloaded. Ferrous scrap processors provide an invaluable service to the steel industry by preparing automobiles, appliances, cans and other types of steel scrap for consumption by steel mills. The scrap recycling industry closes the loop in the manufacturing supply chain and represents a key component in creating a circular economy.

The Shredder

At a ferrous scrap yard, the shredder is the primary piece of equipment for preparing automobile hulks for recycling. Shredding a car breaks it down into its basic materials so they may be separated for recycling. In addition, steel mills prefer shredded steel scrap because it can be handled and melted in its furnaces more efficiently. While cars are the commodities most often fed to a shredder, appliances, bicycles and other steel products are also shredded for recycling.

shredder

There are more than 350 scrap yards in North America equipped with automobile shredders, with the large majority found in the United States. Generally, an automobile shredder consists of a sprawling network of conveyors and a large, rectangular central unit, which houses the actual shredding equipment.

Steel components, which comprise the majority of the automobile, are magnetically separated and eventually discharged from the conveyor to form large piles of shredded steel scrap. Nonferrous metals are hand-sorted from a conveyor belt and shipped to their appropriate end markets.

The remaining, less-recyclable materials, often referred to as fluff, consist of bits of plastic, rubber, fabric and glass, and makes up approximately 25 percent of a vehicle’s waste.

These materials are currently landfilled, although experiments on potential uses, including pyrolysis, particle recycling and energy recovery are underway. About 3 million tons of fluff are landfilled each year.

STEEL RECYCLING

Steel scrap is the single largest ingredient, raw materials or otherwise, needed to make new steel. Increases in technology continue to push the steel industry’s capacity to recycle steel to even greater levels.

Like any other raw material, steel scrap has true economic value. As a result, it is collected and prepared for recycling from a variety of sources for its market value as well as for the energy savings and natural resource conservation it provides to the steel industry.

Automobile recycling provides a steady steam of high-quality steel scrap needed to make new steel. The auto shred is baled and sold to steel mills to meet this demand. There, the shredded steel is combined with other steel scrap to produce new steel. The whole process is an excellent example of how economics can drive recycling.

ENVIRONMENTAL BENEFITS

Several environmental benefits are realized from the steel industry’s demand for automobile scrap. For the steel industry, using recycled steel to make new steel means saving energy and natural resources.

Recycling a single car conserves more than 2500 pounds of iron ore, 1400 pounds of coal and 120 pounds of limestone. In addition, a single recycled car reduces greenhouse gas emissions by more than 8,800 pounds — the equivalent of 450 gallons of gasoline. Through recycling, the steel industry annually saves the equivalent energy to electrically power about 18 million households a year.

AutoPoster

Jim Woods is the Sr. Director of Sustainability Communications for the American Iron and Steel Institute. For more information on the recycling and benefits of automobile recycling, visit: recycle-steel.org, or follow us on Twitter at @EnviroMetal.

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CAFE Encourages Vehicles to Sip Fuel – What It Means For You

When automakers talk about improving a vehicle, fuel efficiency is always a hot topic. Some government regulations and the environmental community are driving significant reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and the automotive industry is at the center of the conversation. So what are the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards you’re seeing in the news? What do government agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have to do with them? How are current buying trends changing these conversations? And most importantly, how does all of this impact you as a consumer? Let’s take a look.

Much of the recent drive toward vehicle lightweighting has come about because of CAFE as discussed previously in our High-Strength Diet Plan post. Started in the 1970s, these standards were modernized in 2011 for 2012-2025 model year vehicles; mandating automakers achieve a combined average fuel economy of 54.5 mpg for all new vehicles sold by an automaker by the year 2025. These standards are jointly implemented by the EPA, NHTSA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) with the shared goal of creating a better environment for Americans.

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The ultimate goal of the EPA, NTHSA and CARB’s rules is to reduce energy consumption and GHG emissions through fuel efficiency, which steel-intensive vehicles have been shown to do in every phase of a vehicle’s lifecycle. So as a vehicle’s material makeup changes in light of these new regulations, it’s important to know the best-performing materials will ultimately provide the most value to drivers.

There are a couple key points of the regulations to review:

First, the vehicles counted toward CAFE standards are the ones sold by an automaker, rather than the vehicles produced. If an automaker sells all 50,000 of the pick-up trucks it makes and only 10,000 of the 50,000 electric vehicles it produces for the 2025 model year, they’re likely to miss the mandated CAFE standards.

Secondly, these laws were drafted to ensure regulations wouldn’t be too stringent in the event of a large shift in consumer preference. The regulation called for a mid-term evaluation to assess the market and automakers’ capabilities of meeting the goals for model year 2022 to 2025 vehicles. After a comment period, the EPA will make a final determination to keep or adjust its GHG standards by April 1, 2018. NHTSA will also engage in its own rulemaking to confirm or adjust the miles per gallon (mpg) standards.

So far, according to the 2016 Draft Technical Assessment Report, automakers have been quick to implement new technologies, and in some cases, the cost of implementation has been more affordable than expected. However, the market is much different than when the regulations were agreed upon. Right now, crossovers and SUVs are selling at record-high levels and in response automakers are making more of them. Passenger cars made up about two-thirds of the new vehicle market in 2012, and the CAFE regulations were updated with that market in mind. Now, trucks and SUVs are more than 60% of the market, as affordable gas, more trim options and a desire for more room has shifted buying preferences toward bigger vehicles.

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What does this mean for consumers?

Fuel Efficiency is Here to Stay – For Every Automaker

First and foremost, this means automakers are incentivized to innovate as they squeeze as many mpg out of their vehicles as possible. Not only does this mean more fuel-efficient engines, but modern capabilities like regenerative braking, stop-start technology, electrification and hybridization, and lightweight design will continue to be a presence in the automotive industry through 2025 and beyond. To consumer’s advantage, this also will result in fewer trips to the gas station to fill up.

Materials Are Under Even More Focus

As automakers continue to look for ways to make their vehicles lighter while improving performance, a vehicle’s material makeup will be in greater focus. As buying preferences shift, automakers will keep price in mind at every stage of vehicle development. Knowing the use of multiple steel grades provides higher value to automakers, consumers can expect to see more frequent design decisions like Toyota’s move to use more high-strength steel in the redesigned Camry. This will help keep the price of their vehicle more manageable for consumers while still providing the performance their customers expect.

The steel industry is noted for accelerating innovation in the automotive industry, with advanced high-strength steel emerging as the leader in new vehicle designs. Newer grades of steel are helping to meet government regulators’ and auto buyers’ demands for better mpg and improved vehicle performance while providing the highest value.

What are your thoughts on the EPA’s regulations? What is the most clever or useful fuel-saving feature you’ve seen thus far? Leave us a comment and let us know!

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Day Trips: 5 Ways to Make the Most of What’s Around You

Think back to the last big trip you planned. In all likelihood, it involved scheduling time off work, saving a bit of money, making sure your vehicle was in tiptop shape and booking hotels along your route. Let’s not forget all the packing, scheduling and organizing it took the night, weeks or even months beforehand too.

Stressful, eh? It’s almost always worth it though. Big trips like these create memories that will last forever. They’re also trips you’ll take very infrequently. But there are less-stressful, less-budget-busting and less-hectic ways to make memories. Enter the day trip: going to a city or recreation area less than two hours away for fun and relaxation!

There’s a decent chance you live near one of the dozens of major population centers in North America. More people means more economic development, which generally brings interesting sights, experiences and adventures to find. However, since there are thousands of cities in North America, you’re sure to find interesting sights and attractions in every state or province even outside of state capitols and major cities! These options are much cheaper than the high-priced hotels, expensive tourist opportunities and multiple fuel fill-ups a big trip requires. Though the automotive and steel industries are working to keep more money in consumers’ pockets, both at the dealership and at the fuel pump, the unplanned expenses of a trip like this can impact what you can experience. These are mitigated by a day trip, since trips to the gas station are less frequent and the attractions will likely be cheaper.

Here are five attractions you are sure to find within a short drive of where you live!

Beaches

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration states 39 percent of Americans live in a county on a shoreline. For many people, the beach is right around the corner. But for the 61 percent of Americans who do not live close to a major body of water, a trip to a great beach doesn’t require you to fly to Hawaii or Florida. A day at the lake is guaranteed fun for the family or a big group of friends and provides opportunities for swimming, relaxing and grilling!

Car on Beach

Museums

Think you’ve already visited all the fascinating museums in your area? Think again! As of 2014, there are more museums in the United States than there are McDonald’s and Starbucks – COMBINED. Museums from the Smithsonian in D.C. to the Museum of Modern Art in NYC get plenty of attention, but there’s bound to be at least one near you that piques your interest. Check out this museum finder to see what’s around you!

Festivals

From art, music and beer to cheese curds, frog legs and garlic, the incredible array of festivals in the United States proves how much people love to get together around a common interest. There’s bound to be something exciting fun happening nearly every weekend around you. Check out sites like Festivals.com to see what’s going on!

Music Festival

Breweries

Take advantage of North America’s craft beer explosion! From about 2,000 breweries in 2012 to more than 5,300 in 2017, many small towns are finding breweries to be thriving businesses and popular tourism spots. There are limitless combinations and possibilities for local brewers to provide. It’s much better than picking between the same four beers at your local watering hole.

If you choose to go this route, please drink responsibly – and keep in mind there’s no better choice than handing the keys to your designated driver to get you all home safely.

State Parks/Nature Preserves

Take in the fresh air! America’s natural beauty is truly a sight to behold and chances are you haven’t seen everything around you yet. The steel industry is working to keep the environment beautiful, both with its products and at its factories and surrounding areas. Grab a backpack and a few friends and hit the trails! There are over 6,600 state parks in the United States waiting to be explored.

state park

There are thousands of towns, each with their own people, culture, civic pride and attractions that are often overlooked throughout North America. Some of which are in your own backyard! Grab a friend, relative or significant other and create your own adventure. Find the hidden gems. Invest in a community. Make moments out of the little things. New experiences don’t have to be expensive or stressful!

Been on any day trips recently? Know of a great “hidden gem”? Leave us a comment below!

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Collaboration Puts Us on the Road to Success at CAR MBS

Earlier this month, the Steel Market Development Institute (SMDI) participated in the 2017 Center for Automotive Research (CAR) Management Briefing Seminars (MBS), held at the Grand Traverse Resort in Traverse City, Michigan. If you attended the event, chances are you saw us while driving up on I-75, when checking into the resort or perhaps while reading the Automotive News Show Daily.


MBS is CAR’s annual flagship event. It serves as a platform for thought-provoking dialogue providing a vision for the future of the global automotive industry.

This year, attendees ranged from automaker and supplier executives to finance, academia, labor, government, business and automotive media representatives. This diverse crowd all gathered with one common interest – to connect and focus on issues currently challenging the automotive industry and solutions to achieve success.

Throughout the week, more than 65 speakers shared valuable material and engaged in candid discussion. Programming topics included manufacturing, connected and automated vehicles, sales and production forecasts, trade, strategy, restructuring, fuel emissions policy, mobility and design and innovation.

John Catterall, executive director of the Auto/Steel Partnership (A/SP) presented as part of the seminar’s “World Class Manufacturing Technologies” session. Catterall’s presentation highlighted the successful collaboration between the automotive and steel industries, next generation steels to the industry and the A/SP technology roadmap.

Industry to-do list

Aside from programming, the event served as a catalyst for networking. With more than 1,000 attendees, SMDI executives and SMDI member company representatives had the opportunity to interact with influential stakeholders within the industry. This included 70 onsite media who were interested in discussing steel innovation, lightweighting capabilities and the industry’s commitment to sustainability.

AD and P interview from AMF

It’s no surprise MBS is recognized as a must-attend event which continues to move the automotive industry forward in Michigan. SMDI is already looking for to attending the 2018 CAR MBS, scheduled for July 30 – August 2, 2018.

Did you attend MBS? Comment below and share your favorite presentation or event from the week!

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Navigating Your Car Buying/Leasing Experience

There comes a time in most people’s life when they decide to get a new vehicle. For many people, this can be overwhelming and arguably one of the biggest decisions needed to be made. To make this experience simpler, here are some things to keep in mind when navigating the car buying/leasing process.

Buying vs Leasing pros and cons

Leasing Versus Buying

There is no clear cut answer whether to lease or buy a car. For each individual, the decision will vary based on personal preference and lifestyle. If you’re willing to make a higher monthly payment until your loan is paid off and don’t mind driving a vehicle for several years, purchasing a car is the best choice. However, if you prefer a less expensive monthly payment and would rather drive a car for just a few years, leasing a vehicle would be a better fit.

Money, Money, Money, Money…Money

Though it can be tempting to lease or buy a car outside your budget, you don’t want to put yourself in a bind each month when your bill is due. Rest assured there is plenty of time in life to ride in style in your dream car.

If you haven’t already, take some time to figure out your monthly expenses. Based on this, decide how much you can afford to spend on a monthly car payment. It’s recommended your total car payment (interest, insurance, etc.) should not exceed 10% of your gross income. If you’re still in the dark, try using these online tools to help calculate your monthly lease payment or monthly car loan payment.

What Type of Vehicle?

There are so many different types of vehicles on the market – sedan, hatchback, SUV, crossover, couple, convertible, truck, hybrid/electric, diesel, minivan, luxury, wagon, etc. Spend some time accessing your personal needs in a vehicle and researching which vehicles will fit these needs. Though sports car may be more fun to drive, it may not be realistic for weather conditions or changes in the seasons. Additionally, a small sedan may not be ideal for fitting a growing family along with groceries.

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Additionally, there are various online resources providing information on a vehicle, such as Edmunds.com, J.D. Power, and Consumer Reports, along with online reviews from industry experts and owners which can give you a better understanding of the car.

It’s All in the Details

Automakers offer just about every feature you can imagine in their newest vehicle models. Some features are standard in most cars. However, other features can be considered luxury with an additional cost. Make a list of non-negotiable features and others that would be nice to have but could be lived without before heading to the dealer.

Woman using navigation system while driving a car

Features include:

  • Fuel Economy: cruise control, manual transmission and engine size
  • Functionality: interior fabric type, entertainment system, power features (locks, windows and seats), remote start, remote entry, heated seats and steering wheel, sunroof, rooftop storage racks, and towing packages
  • Safety: airbags, antilock brakes (ABS), tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS), automatic emergency braking (AEB), blind spot monitoring, all-wheel and four-wheel drive, and back up camera

Take It for a Spin

Last, but not least, head to your local dealerships to test drive your top vehicle choices. Test driving a car is a valuable opportunity to get a first-hand experience for a car’s performance and handling along with its interior features.

Before your test drive, take a look at the car’s exterior to consider its color, style and size. Once you get into the car, get a feel for the driver’s seat by examining the dash, seating and its adjustment controls, and the car’s visibility. As you drive, be conscious of the car’s acceleration, engine and road noise, braking, steering and handling and suspension. Also, make sure you feel comfortable with the car’s technology including its infotainment screen, backup camera and steering wheel controls.

young man smiling in the car with the keys in hand

Buying or leasing a car can be nerve-racking, however, keep in mind it’s a learning experience. At the end of the day, you’ll be driving away in a new set of wheels enjoying the new car smell!

Have you recently purchased or leased a car? Comment and share any tips for to help our first time readers!

 

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Different Grades, One Goal: Protecting Drivers

When you hear the phrase “high-strength steel,” what immediately comes to mind? Is it the capability for lightweighting? How about its recyclability? Or how new technology is making sweeping changes in the steel industry?

Despite all of those being true, it probably wasn’t your first thought.

In 1951, a promising Mercedes-Benz engineer named Béla Barényi registered patent DBP 854.157 with the German patent office. This patented the concept of the “crumple zone,” where a vehicle’s body is designed to absorb impact in certain areas to reduce damage to the passenger compartment. This is done through a mix of materials, placing milder materials in areas away from passengers and protecting them by design. First used on the 1959 Mercedes W111, the concept was a significant break from general practice at the time, which was to make every exterior vehicle component stiffer. A completely stiff vehicle doesn’t absorb any impact, meaning passengers would feel the brunt of the impact generated by the collision. The crumple zone revolutionized the automotive industry’s approach to passenger safety and like many of Barényi’s innovations it’s still in use today.

Crumple Zone Patent

The Crumple Zone Patent, from Mercedes-Benz.com

Today’s crumple zones far outpace the safety and protection offered in those vehicles for a number of reasons. Though designs and technology have come a long way since the 1950s, the development of new steel grades has propelled the industry forward in its pursuit of safety. The latest grades of steel, known as advanced high-strength steel (AHSS), are up to five times as strong as previous grades and enable parts up to 35 percent lighter than the parts they replace. The high elongation (ability for the steel to be formed into parts despite its stiffness) and high-strength contribute to AHSS’s ability to absorb more energy as it deforms.

As regulations have made vehicle lightweighting a necessity, automakers are touting their use of high-strength steel in a vehicle’s construction. For example in larger, family-oriented vehicles like the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica, which features a body comprised of more than 72 percent high-strength steel.

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The strongest steels have generally been placed in critical components of a vehicle’s passenger compartment. The passenger compartment surrounding the people inside includes the A- and B-pillars, roof rails and floor cross-members. Using high-tensile strength steel in these areas best protects passengers in the cases of rollovers and impacts to the front and side.

With more than 200 steel grades available, OEMs have the opportunity to utilize various grades throughout a vehicle. This allows automakers to use the right grade in the right application for exceptional occupant protection, crash energy management and durability. Knowing that AHSS is the fastest growing material in automotive applications, the steel industry continues to work closely with its customers to develop innovative grades and manufacturing technologies to provide tailored solutions for each application throughout the vehicle.

Do you know how much high-strength steel is in your vehicle? Let us know in the comments – we’d love to chat!

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The Auto Industry’s High-Strength Diet Plan

Today’s vehicles are getting lighter, as we’ve documented in a previous blog post. A practice beginning on the heels of the Oil Crisis of the 1970s, the automotive industry continues to look to lightweighting to increase the fuel efficiency of its vehicles. As the most sustainable automotive material, steel is no stranger to reducing greenhouse gas emissions – even when the world isn’t looking – and the steel industry continues to work hand-in-hand with the automotive industry to accelerate innovation in performance, value and sustainability.

Since regulations will continue to tighten for the foreseeable future, lightweighting is here to stay, meaning automotive material choices will continue to dominate the conversation. What other benefits does lightweighting with high-strength steel provide consumers outside of consuming less fuel? We’re glad you asked. Vehicle lightweighting enhances the overall driving experience in a variety of ways and the use of high-strength steel often accentuates those benefits.

A vehicle’s center of gravity is also called the center of mass. Every object has one, including us humans. Merriam-Webster defines it as “the point at which the entire weight of a body may be considered as concentrated so that if supported at this point the body would remain in equilibrium in any position.” If you need a clear picture, let’s have the high-strength steel-intensive Lexus LC 500 show us:

Lexus LC 500 balancing

 

When vehicle mass is changed, such as when an advanced high-strength steel (AHSS) or ultra high-strength steel (UHSS) component replaces a part made from another material, the center of gravity changes. This gives engineers another tool to improve the vehicle – the ability to put the vehicle’s center of gravity in an area better-suited to the needs of its customers. This results in improved dynamic performance, giving the vehicle more stability and greater handling.

Stopping and starting are also improved through a lighter-weight vehicle. You don’t need to be a physics major to know a Chevrolet Bolt will likely have a shorter braking distance than a Chrysler Pacifica, regardless of lightweighting achieved with steel. Though this example is much more pronounced (they are in different segments, of course), it demonstrates how a vehicle with more mass will need more stopping distance. The same goes for acceleration as well. A lighter vehicle will generally move quicker and be more agile.

The use of high-strength steels can also increase visibility! Automakers won’t be making windshields out of high-strength steel anytime soon, but as industry safety standards become more precise and account for a wider variety of crash types, the passenger cage is coming under the microscope. By using more AHSS and UHSS in a vehicle’s pillars, engineers can reduce the pillar size while maintaining or even increasing their performance and crashworthiness. This gives the driver a broader range of peripheral vision and more peace of mind driving on the highway.  More visibility and stronger materials, combined with a shorter braking distance, equals a safer vehicle overall. Take a look at how the 2016 Volvo XC90, winner of the Automotive Excellence Award at Great Designs in Steel 2017, envelops the vehicle’s passengers in high-strength steels and puts the strongest steel grades in the pillars:

Volvo XC90 BIW

The safety features don’t stop there! You may have heard of automatic braking, blind zone alerts or lane departure warnings. These features have prevented countless accidents already and will play a larger role in automakers’ future safety offerings.

So how does high-strength steel play a role in those features? Easy. Those systems are complex and highly technical, often involving the use of radar and other equipment around the vehicle. One or two sensors might not weigh much, but a vehicle’s entire suite of advanced safety features add up quickly. Automakers can use the weight savings from AHSS to include additional innovative features in their vehicle to further enhance the vehicle’s safety.

Lightweighting offers automakers the opportunity to gain an edge on their competition. Which of these benefits interest you the most? It’s okay to say more than one! Leave a comment below.

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Steel: Beyond the Body

When most people think of a vehicle using high-strength steel, two areas usually come to mind: the exterior panels and the vehicle’s frame. That’s no surprise, since they’re two of the areas where high-strength steel makes the biggest impact on a vehicle’s weight and performance. However, it’s time we start looking beyond the body for areas where high-strength steel provides value.

Steel has been crucial to the automotive industry since its inception. Most critical vehicle components are made out of steel, and years of collaboration between the steel industry and the auto industry has accelerated innovation in both. As automakers continue to look for ways to make their vehicles lighter while maintaining or improving performance, the steel industry continues to create improved, higher tensile strength grades of steel even in places the average consumer doesn’t normally think about when purchasing a vehicle.

Today’s automakers love touting their vehicles’ high-strength steel makeup, however, they love talking about their vehicles’ engines even more. Internal combustion engines are made up of thousands of individual parts all moving in perfect harmony to create the force that propels a vehicle. From pistons to valves, connecting rods to cam shafts, many components of a vehicle’s engine are made of steel due to the extremely high temperatures and intense loads an engine produces. The steel industry has responded to market demands by supplying newer grades of steel to make these parts, allowing automakers to maintain and improve part durability and performance while reducing size and weight. This allows the vehicle to go further than before using the same amount of fuel!

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All that effort to make a vehicle go in a straight line is fine – if you’re a drag racer. What about the components that make a vehicle turn? Good news, high-strength steel helps steering systems too. Rack-and-pinion parts (the system moved by the steering wheel to turn the front wheels) and suspension components (how the vehicle is connected to its wheels) are other key areas where high-strength steel makes a difference. Because of the intense demands required of these systems – especially in terms of safety – only the most durable, effective materials will make the cut. That’s where the innovation of the steel industry comes in. Since high-strength steels have a wide range of formability and strength, automakers can create torsion bars, stabilizers, steering racks and more to the exact specifications required for both safety and performance. Automakers are continuing to find new ways to create better steering and suspension components out of high-strength steels. We can’t wait for what’s next!

Let’s shift gears a bit and talk about the transmission. How does high-strength steel affect the gearbox? As a critical component of a vehicle’s drivetrain, the transmission ensures a vehicle is using the right amount of power given the speed, terrain and how much load the vehicle is carrying. Transmission failures have frustrated drivers and repair shops alike, so it’s a relief to know that carmakers are making transmissions more durable by increasing their use of ultra- and advanced high-strength steel. Gears, shafts and clutches alike are seeing the benefits of high-strength steel’s fatigue resistance, with lighter weight as an added bonus!

stick shift

That lighter weight is also making it easier on the driveshaft, which itself is seeing more use of durable high-strength steel. The rods and differential gears that move power from the engine to the transmission are key contributors to the weight of a vehicle, in addition to being a vital part of a vehicle’s ability to perform. Downsizing and reducing the mass of driveshaft components while maintaining or improving the vehicle’s overall performance remains a focus of today’s researchers.

Steel really can be used in a variety of ways in the automotive industry. Its durability and reliability make a significant difference – and the industry is taking notice. Each vehicle provides the opportunity for engineers, designers and researchers to learn more about high-strength steels and how to best use them in a vehicle. From its current uses to its future applications, the steel industry is committed to maintaining steel’s status as the best material for the automotive industry!

Did any components surprise you? Let us know in the comments!

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The Steel Industry’s Tech Transformation

This is a guest post courtesy of Sean Donnelly, president and CEO of ArcelorMittal Dofasco, based in Hamilton, ON, and chairman of the Steel Market Development Institute’s (SMDI) CEO Group. He was the keynote speaker at Great Designs in Steel (GDIS) 2017.

SMDI invited the steel and automotive industries to Livonia, Michigan for GDIS 2017 to share knowledge, network with peers, tout the innovative work taking place in the industry, and to present the Automotive Excellence Award. Given the focus on materials in today’s automotive industry, collaboration is the key to advancing steel.

Humphrey points to Donnelly

I was proud to participate in a keynote conversation at this year’s event. Having worked at ArcelorMittal Dofasco for my entire 35-year career, I’ve experienced many changes in the automotive industry.

Vehicle design has been the most drastic improvement. From handling to power, styling to connectivity, automakers have implemented significant innovations. Today, strict automotive regulations are challenging automakers to squeeze every possible MPG out of vehicle engines while also improving vehicle safety. As vehicles becomes more fuel-efficient, it’s clear lightweighting is mandatory to stay competitive. The steel industry is working with automakers closer than ever before, but how can further improvements be made?

Automotive engineers are working with steel industry researchers earlier in the design process to ensure the use of varying steel grades is optimized for automakers’ needs. This process is featured prominently at GDIS and is an important part of our strategy in the steel industry. As we discussed during the event, when you put intelligent people with a common purpose together to collaborate, you will get successful results. The event is praised by automakers and steelmakers alike for facilitating inter-industry collaboration while balancing the proprietary information of all involved organizations. Communicating openly and working closely with each other at GDIS, and beyond, is enabling both industries to flourish.

Challenges Faced by the Steel Industry

We continue to search for new ways to make better products for automakers. However, there are two key categories I’d like to discuss.

First, we are constantly looking to reduce variability in the steels we produce in areas such as mechanical properties, surface quality and thickness. The steel industry has made incredible progress in this and improvements continue to be made. We are ensuring our products perform as they should every single time – from weld quality, to road performance, to recyclability at the end of its life.

Second, the need to increase the formability of steel products continues to be at a premium. The steel strength-ductility diagram below shows the multitude of steel grades currently available to automakers. Steel companies are working to increase how much their products can be shaped during production (indicated by elongation on the y-axis), while also increasing their strength (x-axis). As you can see in this chart, the variety of grades available to automakers (currently over 200) is constantly increasing and moving to high-strength and high elongation grades, far outpacing the innovation of other materials.

Steel Grade Innovation Today CUT

How will the industry achieve these goals? Through technology.

“Industry 4.0,” defined as the second stage of automation, is transforming the industry. Machines and robots are using people, sensors, algorithms and advanced software to gather data and communicate with each other to make decentralized decisions in real time. This technology helps humans solve problems using data never seen before – the new capabilities are boosting production efficiency and making product design more detailed.

New data capabilities give more insight into steel processing than ever before, allowing researchers around the world to make newer, consistent, stronger and more ductile steels faster than at any point in history. Additionally, processes enabled by these new technologies impact every facet of the steelmaking process.  For example, automated surface inspection applies technology to the quality control process, which has reduced non-conforming production four-fold. This directly helps the industry achieve its goal of reducing variability in its products. New technology is a key reason why the production of advanced high-strength steel has increased by 7000% during the past decade.

The Steel Industry of the Future

The future of the steel industry involves much more highly-trained, highly-skilled workers than in the past. One of ArcelorMittal’s 10 Sustainable Development Outcomes is to “ensure a pipeline of talented scientists and engineers.” We’re aiming to funnel young students into STEM programs, equipping them for the economy of the future and beyond. Coding, robotics and advanced manufacturing will all play key parts in ArcelorMittal’s future, with work under way to further develop these career paths. Other steel companies are also implementing similar processes to prepare the next era of steel.

The steel industry can never move too fast in its pursuit of improvement. Automakers and suppliers alike are cheering on the new developments introduced by the steel industry, and are applauding the adoption of new technologies and research collaboration on display at GDIS. The most valuable part of GDIS is in the exchange of ideas. The best and brightest in the automotive and steel industries are all gathered in one place to learn and collaborate with each other. No matter how steel affects your life, it’s an exciting time to be in one of the world’s most technologically advanced industries.

Donnelly talks to Humphrey

How else is technology changing the automotive industry? What sort of innovations do you think are on the horizon? Let us know in the comments below.

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Your Summer Soundtrack Tune Up

Windows down, music up! There’s no better feeling than going on a summertime adventure, where new experiences await. Whether you’re headed out solo or with friends, have an action packed itinerary or plan to go wherever the road takes you, you’ll need a strong soundtrack to go with it.

We have the perfect one for you.

The Perfect Playlist for the Perfect Drive!

The role of music as part of the driving experience cannot be understated. When you hear the intro of a song like Joker and the Thief or Wagon Wheel, you can’t help but turn up the volume! Our hope is that every song on this playlist gives you a “best road trip ever” type of feeling. Before you hit the road, grab some sunscreen, put your windows down and the sunroof all the way back, open your Spotify app, and let our playlist work its magic.

Without further ado, we present to you DriveUsingSteel’s “Summer on the Road” playlist!

Hit the “Follow” button so you can pull it up as soon as you get in the car!

These songs have inspired countless head bobs, steering wheel taps, impromptu in-car concerts and more. You just can’t help but smile when you’re Walking on Sunshine, whether you’re the driver or The Passenger. There’s nothing like Summertime to remind you of the gorgeous scenery of America!  It’s a great time to make some memories, and we have just the soundtrack.

What do you think of our Summer on the Road playlist? Any songs we should add? Leave a comment and let us know!

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