International Study Confirms Aluminum Advantage

April 14, 2010

Finds Aluminum Best for Energy, Emissions Savings in Automotive Applications

NEW YORK--Alcoa (NYSE:AA) today praised a new study concluding that lightweight, strong and infinitely recyclable aluminum is the best choice for reducing energy usage and emissions over an automobile’s lifecycle.

The study was conducted as part of the Magnesium Front End Research and Development project, an initiative tasked with developing technologies to grow the use of magnesium in automobiles. The study concluded that utilizing aluminum results in lower lifecycle energy and GHG emissions than steel or magnesium for all scenarios. Aluminum’s “breakeven distance” is less than 36,000 km (only 16,300 miles), highlighting aluminum’s vehicle mass reduction and recycling benefits.

“In the current state of technology and within the lifetime of the vehicle, aluminum has a better (energy) performance...,” the study stated.

The study was presented at the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) World Congress in Detroit this week. The authors, from Natural Resources Canada,, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Australia Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, and Beijing University of Technology, compared the energy and environmental impacts of using aluminum, steel or magnesium-based front end parts on a General Motors Cadillac CTS.

The study took a “cradle to cradle” approach, looking at the impact of materials choices from production through the use phase of the vehicle to recycling at the end of the vehicle’s life. Cradle to cradle is a more comprehensive analysis model which includes a review of the product through the end of its life, but also evaluates whether the product is actually re-used or recycled. Aluminum is infinitely recyclable and can be converted directly back into new parts without degradation versus other materials which are simply down-cycled.

“Overall large magnesium structural parts can provide environmental benefits in terms of energy use and GHG emissions vis-à-vis steel within the expected life of the car. But overall, the aluminum design is still better achieving the breakeven distance from energy use and GHG emissions perspectives within the vehicle life,” the study stated.

The Magnesium Front End Research and Development project is sponsored by Natural Resources Canada, the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology, the United States Department of Energy and the United States Automotive Materials Partnership. A copy of the report is available at

About Alcoa

Alcoa is the world’s leading producer of primary aluminum, fabricated aluminum and alumina. In addition to inventing the modern-day aluminum industry, Alcoa innovation has been behind major milestones in the aerospace, automotive, packaging, building and construction, commercial transportation, consumer electronics and industrial markets over the past 120 years. Among the solutions Alcoa markets are flat-rolled products, hard alloy extrusions, and forgings, as well as Alcoa® wheels, fastening systems, precision and investment castings, and building systems in addition to its expertise in other light metals such as titanium and nickel-based super alloys. Sustainability is an integral part of Alcoa’s operating practices and the product design and engineering it provides to customers. Alcoa has been a member of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for eight consecutive years and approximately 75 percent of all of the aluminum ever produced since 1888 is still in active use today. Alcoa employs approximately 59,000 people in 31 countries across the world. More information can be found at

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