Can Aluminum Make Electric Cars Cheaper?

The high cost of entry is just one of the many barriers preventing electric vehicles from making a mainstream impact. Automakers are exploring many options for reducing the cost of EVs, and a new study from Europe suggests that car companies could offset the extra cost of lightweight aluminum with smaller battery packs.

The study was conducted by Forschungsgesellschaft Kraftfahrwesen mbH Aachen for the European Aluminum Association, so it should be taken with a grain of salt. That said, there is certainly something to be said for the use of lightweight materials in cars as a whole. Domestic automakers like Ford are exploring the use of aluminum and magnesium in their next-gen pickups as a way to meet increasing fuel economy standards.

Right now automakers are fighting an uphill battle of trying to provide EVs with more usable range that aren’t too expensive. The problem is that steel is heavy, and battery packs are heavier. Moving all that steel requires a lot of energy, which kills range potential, and the larger the battery, the more weight added to the vehicle; it’s a never ending game of moving goal posts.

The study claims that the use of aluminum could drop the weight of a VW Golf (which served as the reference vehicle) by more than 350 pounds. This would allow for a smaller battery pack, dropping energy storage by 3.3 kWh while still maintaining a range of around 124 miles compared to a Golf with a steel body and a larger battery. The smaller battery would drop approximately 55 more pounds, for a total weight loss of more than 400 pounds on the Golf.

The study suggests at a volume of 100,000 units per year, aluminum weight reduction would cost automakers about $1,324 extra per vehicle. However, the smaller battery pack would save more than $2,150 per EV, shaving more than $800 off the cost of the EV while keeping the same range. While these savings won’t make a huge dent in EV costs, it could be a good first step in bringing EV prices down to a more reasonable level.

In the word’s of Lotus found Colin Chapman, “Simplify, and add lightness.” Sounds like a plan to us!

Source: Green Car Congress

Christopher DeMorro

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.