News Column

GM Transforms Magnesium Into Lighter Alternative to Steel, Aluminum

Oct. 23, 2012

Nathan Bomey

General Motors researchers who tinkered with magnesium in the laboratory have developed a proprietary way to use the metal as a lighter alternative to steel and aluminum in vehicles, the company said.

GM said it is has developed a new technology that improves the strength and durability of magnesium by applying intense heat to allow it to be molded more easily.

The technological advancement could help GM suppliers replace steel and aluminum parts with magnesium, improving vehicle fuel economy and saving consumers money at the gas pump.

"Using high-strength lightweight materials such as magnesium and aluminum is one of the most effective ways to improve vehicle fuel economy and driving performance," said Jon Lauckner, GM chief technology officer and vice president of global research & development, in a statement.

The news comes after GM recently announced that it had achieved a breakthrough in welding technology that would allow more aluminum to be used in vehicles.

GM said it tested the new technology by developing a production-ready rear deck lid inner panel with magnesium. It's 2.2 pounds lighter than a similar steel component.

On a broader scale, GM said the U.S. Automotive Materials Partnership had estimated that by 2030, the average vehicle will integrate 350 pounds of magnesium parts to replace about 630 pounds of steel or aluminum components. Cutting vehicle weight by 280 pounds would lead to a 9% to 12% reduction in fuel consumption.

"The goal is for suppliers to be able to use the process to provide significant amounts of magnesium sheet that will trim pounds from vehicle mass," GM said.

Source: (c)2012 the Detroit Free Press Distributed by MCT Information Services

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