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Electric vehicles to increase auto industry steel demand


September 2017

Increasing demand for Ultra-Low Emission Vehicles (ULEV) will drive growth in steel supply to the European automotive industry by 4.2 million tonnes, according to a new study by Tata Steel. The study predicts that the production of steel for vehicle structure, as well as electrical and plated steels, will see a sharp increase if all new vehicles are zero emissions by 2050.

The study shows that demand for advanced steels for the vehicle structure will increase by approximately 2.6 million tonnes by 2050, as manufacturers look to save weight in the most cost-effective way possible.

“This is contrary to previous speculation that non-ferrous materials – such as aluminium and carbon fibre – would increase, leaving steel as a less-attractive alternative. However, these materials are expected to have a relatively low impact for two reasons; first, they will remain prohibitively expensive and secondly, they are less sustainable when looking at the full lifecycle which will be a major, future driver in automotive,” said Tata Steel.

Another key growth area for steel will be in the powertrain used in ULEVs, which includes electric motors and battery cells. Expected to account for a 1.6 million-tonne increase in the demand for steel, these components will use greater levels of electrical and plated steels respectively. High-performance electrical steels can improve an electric motor’s efficiency, enhancing range and power, while lithium-ion batteries commonly used in EVs require advanced plated steel.

Growth will also be supported by the development of localised battery cell production, with at least six significant factories required in Europe by 2030 to meet the increased demand for electric vehicles, according to the report.

“A growing number of EVs on the road will also cause increased demand on electric infrastructure. Steel will play a key role in the development of EV infrastructure, such as charging units and refuelling hubs,” it added.

The study by Tata Steel has considered several roadmaps for the uptake of EVs to 2050, depending upon the level of global legislation and the speed at which it is implemented. It has also considered external factors likely to impact the adoption of zero emissions vehicles, such as car-sharing and population growth.

Chris Wooffindin, Marketing Manager – Automotive, Tata Steel, said: “Our report shows that steel will be more relevant to the automotive industry than it is today. Many people expected the next generation of vehicles to feature unconventional materials, which is not feasible based on the costs that manufacturers, and subsequently customers, are facing with electrification.”


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Ford announces new initiatives


September 2017

Ford has announced new manufacturing actions centred on improving the company’s operational fitness and building vehicles for customers around the world. It is investing US$ 900 million in its Kentucky Truck Plant for plant upgrades to build the new Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator, which begin arriving in dealerships this Autumn. Both full-size SUVs will be exported to more than 55 markets globally – including the Navigator to China.

The US$ 900 million investment secures 1,000 jobs for hourly workers at the Louisville plant. This is in addition to the US$ 1.3 billion investment and 2,000 jobs created at that plant in late 2015 to build the new Ford Super Duty. Kentucky Truck employs nearly 7,600 full-time hourly workers – and Ford has more U.S. hourly workers and builds more vehicles in the U.S. than any other automaker, it told ISMR.

Ford’s next-generation Ford Focus, it said, will be more spacious and packed with technology. Production begins in the second half of 2019, with models coming from the company’s existing Focus plants globally. Most new North American Focus models initially will come from China, with additional variants coming from Europe later.

Ford Joe Hinrichs

Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of the Americas, at the 2017 North American International Auto Show

Production of the current North American Focus at the Michigan Assembly Plant continues through to mid-2018. Following that, the plant will be converted to produce the Ranger midsize pickup truck in late 2018 and the Bronco midsize SUV in 2020.

The new North America Focus production plan saves US$1 billion in investment costs versus the original plan – US$ 500 million on top of the US$ 500 million savings announced earlier this year by cancelling plans for a new manufacturing facility in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, and moving Focus production to Ford’s Hermosillo, Mexico, plant.

“Finding a more cost-effective way to deliver the next Focus programme in North America is a better plan, allowing us to redeploy the money we save into areas of growth for the company – especially sport utilities, commercial vehicles, performance vehicles as well as mobility, autonomous vehicles and electrified vehicles,” said Joe Hinrichs, Ford executive vice president and president, Global Operations.


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