The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) jointly finalized a new rule that requires medium and heavy-duty trucks to improve fuel efficiency up to 25% by 2027 in an effort to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the nation’s freight transportation activities. The final standards are expected to lower CO2 emissions by approximately 1.1 billion metric tons, save vehicle owners fuel costs of about $170 billion, and reduce oil consumption by up to two billion barrels over the lifetime of the vehicles sold under the program.
Across the spectrum of the new rule — from combination tractors with trailers to vocational vehicles, such as delivery trucks and school buses to heavy duty pickups and vans – aluminum components including wheels, extrusions, and sheet is cited as part of the lightweighting solution to help move the nation’s freight with less fuel and fewer emissions.
The weight and emission benefits that result from using aluminum in heavy-duty trucks are significant. Research conducted by Ricardo Consulting Engineers has shown that an “aluminum-intensive” Class 8 commercial tractor trailer can reduce vehicle weight by 3,300 pounds. For every 10% of weight reduction, up to a 5.5% improvement in fuel economy is possible. The study also found that substituting the nation’s fleet of Class 8 tractor-trailers with aluminum-intensive models would save 9.3 million tons of CO2 annually.
As these standards are implemented, the Aluminum Association plans to work closely with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and their suppliers on cost-effective vehicle mass reduction and freight efficiency solutions which can help manufacturers and fleets meet the new standards, phasing in starting with the 2018 model year. “We’re pleased that the agencies recognized the contribution that aluminum – along with other lightweight material solutions – can play in helping OEMs meet the ambitious new targets set out in the rule” said Curt Wells, director of Regulatory Affairs at the Aluminum Association. “The aluminum industry is committed to working closely with customers throughout the supply chain to help develop vehicle efficiency solutions.”
Mass reduction using aluminum is a proven and cost effective technology for achieving improved road vehicle fuel economy and CO2 emissions performance, and over the past 40 years aluminum use in both light-duty and heavy-duty vehicles has increased steadily. Since 1975, aluminum consumption in the road vehicle market has grown by more than 4 billion pounds. The industry has responded to meet the needs of this growing sector and is committed to continued increases in capacity. Since 2013, Aluminum Association member companies have announced U.S. plant expansions and planned investment totaling more than $2.6 billion to grow domestic aluminum capacity for the transportation market.
Additionally, the aluminum industry has a history of working with transportation market manufacturers throughout the supply chain in the development of vehicle efficiency improvement solutions. That work continues across the medium- and heavy-duty vehicle market — which now includes a first-time regulatory focus on trailer efficiencies — as these new standards are finalized and implementation of the requirements begin. The aluminum industry also continues to develop new alloys and improved componentry, as well as pursue new aluminum joining methods that will enable increased integration of aluminum and non-aluminum components into next generation medium- and heavy-duty vehicle designs.