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Aluminum Good For More Than The Environment

By Alex Law

from http://auto123.sympatico.ca/news/2000/february/autonews020100.html


In announcing a deal that seems to bring aluminum ever closer to a major role in automotive design, Detroit's Ford Motor Company and Canada's Alcan Aluminum Limited quite fairly described the increased use of the lighter-than-steel material as being good for the environment.

The principle at work here is quite simple -- aluminum is a lot lighter than the steel it usually replaces, and less weight requires less gasoline and less gasoline creates less pollution.

What Alcan and Ford did not mention but which should not be forgotten by consumers who like a little juice with their daily drive is that more aluminum can also mean more performance. This I learned a couple of years ago, when I drove around Detroit in a Ford Taurus made almost completely out of aluminum and powered by the high-powered V8 that ran the SHO Taurus in those days.

That engine in that vehicle was already pleasingly quick, but with the aluminum body it was a major rocket, as people in hotrod Mustangs and Camaros and everything else learned to their chagrin on Woodward Avenue. That's what happens when you take about 700 kg out of the curb weight of a 6-passenger family sedan.

Behaving in such a manner does indeed have a counter-productive affect on the environmental benefits of aluminum, but quick launches is a relatively minor part of any car's normal life cycle so there would still be significant pollution benefits overall.

There are cost problems with aluminum to be considered and a significant issue regarding aluminum's safety vis--vis steel (on balance, after all, heavier is still safer) to be settled, but steps to make aluminum a bigger ingredient in the average car's makeup should be welcomed by those who like performance.

 


(updated - 5/10/01)

700 kg ~ 1540 Lbs.

Using desktop Drag simulator I get this data.

  Stock V8 SHO All Aluminum V8 SHO
Curb Weight 3442 # 1902 #
Test Weight 3700 # 2160 #
0-60 ET 6.66 sec 4.57 sec
1/4 mile ET 14.98 sec 12.80 sec
1/4 mile  93.6 mph 113.6 mph

No wonder they liked it! 

Two seconds quicker in the 1/4 mile!

A sub 5 sec 0-60!

I wonder what it cost and how stiff the & strong the chassis was?

Buford


Don Mallinson mentioned that Ford made several al aluminum Gen 1-2 SHOs that weighed only 2800 lbs.  A Gen 1-2 weighs less than a Gen 3 and would gain less since the Gen 3 engine is already all aluminum. I have to think the original article by Alex Law has a typo -  it must be 700 Lbs lighter not 700 Kg lighter. 

A 3500 lb Gen 3 losing 700 lb would weigh 2800 - the same as an aluminum Gen 1-2 that makes a lot more sense. 

Re-running the simulation with more realistic numbers.

  Stock V8 SHO All Aluminum V8 SHO
Curb Weight 3442 # 2742 #
Test Weight 3700 # 3000 #
0-60 ET 7.47 sec 6.226 sec
1/4 mile ET 15.768 sec 14.743 sec
1/4 mile  89.2 mph 95.8 mph

Provides more realistic results.

Buford


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