The MMTA’s Sustainability Working Group (SWG) has produced a new report on how minor metals contribute to sustainable road transport. The full document can be found on the MMTA website The group has prepared a summary below and are happy to answer any questions on this report or sustainability in general.
- Road transport contributes significantly to man-made greenhouse gas emissions
- Legislation has been introduced in many jurisdictions to reduce emissions from vehicles
- End-of-life vehicle legislation helps to sort materials for recycling and re-use, minimising waste
- By making vehicles lighter with high strength alloys, they require less power, so produce fewer emissions
- Electric vehicle technology is improving rapidly with infrastructure, such as charging stations, growing fast
Road transport contributes significantly to man-made greenhouse gases; this has presented an opportunity for the industry to develop sustainable practices. Safeguarding the planet for the future depends on the reduction of emissions now.
Under continuous scrutiny from governments and NGOs, the road transport sector must adapt to requirements that vary by jurisdiction, focusing primarily on lowering emissions and increasing end-of-life recycling. Already from this year (2015), car manufactures can be fined for exceeding emission limits on vehicles sold* in the EU.
Two options to achieve lower transport emissions include:
- Reducing vehicle weight, thereby reducing the resources needed to power the vehicle
- Leveraging electric and hybrid technologies
Minor metals are essential for both approaches as they are important raw materials in the production of vehicles. From the steel and aluminium alloys in the structure, to batteries and electronics, minor metals play a key role.
Described by governments as ‘strategic’ or ‘critical’ because of their exceptional characteristics, minor metals are part of the innovative solutions which will ensure a sustainable future.
One particular challenge for the road transport industry is the ‘weight spiral’. Over time, the weight of vehicles has increased due to technology and safety features, while at the same time companies are having to comply with lower emissions targets set by governments. The graph below shows the increasing trend of vehicle weights between 2004 and 2011. The dip in 2009 is due to government scrappage schemes favouring lighter vehicles.
Some minor metals used to meet the challenges of the road transport industry include chromium, magnesium, manganese, silicon, niobium, molybdenum, tungsten.
Lightweight vehicles – Lighter car structures using stronger, thinner and therefore lighter alloys. The use of minor metals in alloys improves their mechanical properties. For example, molybdenum added to high strength steel makes not only a high strength product, but also one with good formability and weldability, which are important qualities for automotive manufacturing processes.
Electric Vehicles – Increased adoption of electric vehicles, Minor metals such as lithium and cobalt as well as REEs are essential for electric and hybrid vehicle technology. Electric vehicle makers are also incentivised to have lightweight models, as the batteries required are less powerful and therefore use less material.
*Legislation applies to all cars sold in the EU no matter where they were manufactured