There are many factors that have held back the progression of electric cars: but near the top of the list are their comparatively short ranges and their prohibitive costs. So what if you could reduce costs while still maintaining the same range?
According to a recent study, this may be possible: simply by using aluminium instead of steel.
Conducted by Forschungsgesellschaft Kraftfahrwesen for the European Aluminium Association and the International Aluminium Institute, the study reveals that the cost of an aluminium electric vehicle could be €635 below that of a steel electric vehicle with any additional cost of using aluminium easily offset by savings that can be made on the battery pack. This is because a lighter car needs less battery capacity to drive the same distance.
As a reference, the team used a Volkswagen Golf with steel unibody and internal combustion engine and analysed its mass and crashworthiness in four Euro NCAP and FMVSS 301 high speed load cases. The idea was that the electric vehicle should be at least as safe as the crash reference vehicle.
The vehicle was then converted into an EV with only minor changes made to the structure, such as to protect the battery pack. They then converted it to a full aluminium space frame, keeping the outer skin identical to that of steel vehicles.
While maintaining the same crash standards, they found that they could reduce the weight of the vehicle by 357lbs. The battery system could be downsized by 3.3kWh and a driving range of 124miles could be maintained: effectively adding an additional weight reduction of 25kg for a total weight reduction of 187kg.
This lightweighting could be carried out at a production volume of 100,000 vehicles a year with a saving of €1,015 per vehicle.
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