New, Lighter High-Strength Steels Boost Fuel Economy

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With emission standards and fuel economy spearheading many automotive designs, particularly, in lower priced cars, engineers have begun turning to more lightweight, high strength materials.

The 2010 Ford Taurus and Volvo XC60 were both named the 2010 International Car and Truck of the Year. These vehicles use advanced, ultra high-strength steel that makes these them considerably stronger and lighter, which boosts fuel economy. Other cars taking advantage of this technology are the 2010 Ford Fusion and Fusion hybrid.

The lightweight high-strength steel body structure used in these vehicles offers a number of advantages. In addition to better fuel economy, each car provides added side and frontal impact protection; dual-phase, high-strength steel rails; side intrusion beams; and tailor-welded B-pillars between the front and rear door frames, which improve safety by helping to prevent intrusion into the car's passenger compartment.

Over the next decade, Ford is planning vehicle weight reductions ranging from 250 to 750 pounds that will help it meet stringent fuel economy guidelines without compromising vehicle safety or durability. The use of high-strength low-alloy, dual-phase and boron steel has helped Ford perform well in crash tests.

The lightweight, ultra high-strength steels give automakers a cost-effective way to meet new market demands for safety, fuel economy and emissions standards. Many of these new steels are up to four times harder than normal high-strength steel, making them much stronger and stiffer.

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I personally believe that the combination of electric power and lighter steels is the way to go. That said, I think we have a long way to go on the electric power side. Battery technology is still in its infancy and must be refined so that motorists who run out of juice can "juice up" or recharge their batteries in minutes, not hours, as is currently the case.

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Alex A. Kecskes has written hundreds of published articles on health/fitness, "green" issues, TV/film entertainment, restaurant reviews and many other topics. As a former Andy/Belding/One Show ad agency copywriter, he also writes web content, ads, brochures, sales letters, mailers and scripts for national B2B and B2C clients.


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