Can stainless steel overtake aluminum for constructing low carbon vehicles?

Read our latest study and learn more.

The global drive for net zero means that designers must optimize the fuel efficiency of their vehicles to keep the carbon footprint as low as possible. One important way to do this is to reduce the weight of the vehicle’s structure without compromising on safety or performance. That calls for the use of lightweight materials combined with innovative design and construction methods.

At first glance, aluminum would appear to be in pole position when it comes to reducing carbon footprint. Because its low density makes it ideal for building lightweight and therefore fuel-efficient components. But there is more to the carbon footprint of a structural material than how it performs in use. We also need to look at the full story of both production and usage. That means considering the carbon emissions associated with its refining and processing.

This is where aluminum faces a challenge, since its mining and refining operations are very energy-intensive, resulting in a high carbon footprint. So, is there perhaps a case for stainless steel? Its high strength enables lightweight design. Furthermore, it has an inherently low carbon footprint since its production is based mainly on recycled scrap.

It was to settle this question that Outokumpu has collaborated with FKA, the Aachen-based research partner for the automotive industry, on a first-of-its-kind study. The aim was to evaluate the carbon footprint of a real-world component during both production and use.

The study looked at the performance of a battery case in a typical passenger electric vehicle over a projected life of 160,000 km when manufactured from three different materials: aluminum, carbon steel and stainless steel.

The results may come as a surprise. 

Download the full whitepaper describing the study.

White Paper

Putting carbon footprint on the road for automotive construction materials

A first-of-its-kind investigation by Outokumpu, leader in stainless steel, and researchers at FKA Aachen, has shown stainless steel to have world's lowest carbon footprint compared with standard carbon steel and aluminum when considering both the production and use phases.

Download white paper