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Rippey: Steel Comes Out Ahead in the Race for Lighter, Fuel-Efficient Vehicles

But, that’s not the end of the story. In 2025, with a 54.5 mpg fleet, a steel car will offer a smaller carbon footprint than a car made of an alternative material, such as aluminum or carbon fiber, thanks to steel’s production phase being less energy intensive than other materials. The production of one ton of aluminum, for example, requires five times the energy required to make one ton of steel. Since the body structure accounts for about one-third of the curb weight of a typical vehicle, an aluminum car requires twice the amount of carbon dioxide to manufacture as a car made of steel. Add to this the fact that steel is easily recyclable — about 30 percent of the world’s annual steel production comes from recycled scrap. These are important points to consider when evaluating solutions to meet new fuel-efficiency standards designed to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

When the new CAFE standards were first announced, proponents of materials like aluminum, carbon fiber and magnesium proclaimed it was “game over” for steel. But, a close look at the facts and new data show that depiction couldn’t be farther from the truth. With aggressive new fuel-efficiency targets on the horizon, steel’s venerable role as the foundation of the automobile is on track to be every bit as relevant and essential in 2025 as it is today.

Mike Rippey is president and CEO of ArcelorMittal USA.

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