Are Stringent Vehicle Emissions Standards Driving a Surge in Coal?


Guest essay by Eric Worrall

The pressure to conform to tightening vehicle emissions standards and fuel efficiency specifications is intense. Everyone knows about the recent Volkswagen Emissions Scandal, in which Volkswagen rigged the test to produce better results.

As part of the push for better fuel efficiency, which feeds through into a better emission profile, car manufacturers are replacing Steel components with Aluminium. Aluminium is lightweight, cheap, has good corrosion resistance, and has a low melting point, compared to steel – it is easy to cast, machine and weld.

The following graph shows the dramatic rise over the last few years, in the use of Aluminium for manufacturing cars.

Aluminium Consumption for Light Vehicle Manufacture (source )
Aluminium Consumption for Light Vehicle Manufacture (source )

There’s just one issue with this green triumph – refining Aluminium is incredibly energy intensive. Aluminium is smelted using Electrolysis. A pot of Aluminium salt is heated up to melting point, then a huge electric current is run through the molten salt for many hours, even days, to separate out the metallic Aluminium.

The following is a breakdown of the source of the electricity used to electrolyse the Aluminium. Note the surge in coal – the last column, for 2014, represents 400,572 gigawatt hours of electricity generated from coal, to smelt the world’s Aluminium.

Power used to smelt the world's Aluminium, source World Aluminium
Power used to smelt the world’s Aluminium, source World Aluminium

World Aluminium also reports that in 2014, around 53.127 million metric tons of Aluminium were produced, up from 48.774 million tons in 2012.

Much of the rise from 48.774 million tons to 53.127 million tons can be accounted for by the rise in Aluminium used to manufacture cars, up from 5395 million pounds to 6886 million pounds. Converting to tons, Aluminium usage in cars surged from 2.6 million tons in 2012, to 3.4 million tons in 2015, a rise of 0.8 million tons. Aluminium production surged by 53.127 – 48.774 = 4.353 million tons. Therefore, if my calculation is correct, car manufacturing has consumed around a fifth of the rise in Aluminium smelting over the last few years. The electricity used by this increased smelting activity has mostly been produced from coal (note this calculation is using 2014 Aluminium production figures and 2015 automobile Aluminium manufacturing figures – so it is an approximation).

Obviously quite a lot of Aluminium is being used for goods other than cars – Aluminium is incredibly versatile and useful. But if you have already done the R&D, and tooled up to produce Aluminium components for cars, it is obviously also a lot easier to produce other useful Aluminium products.

While the rise in coal generated electricity to smelt Aluminium is dramatic, Aluminium smelting is only one of a range of factors driving the rise in global coal usage. The 400 GwH TwH used in Aluminium production is only a small portion of the rapidly growing multi-terawatt hours of electricity produced every year (40% of which is generated from coal, according to World Coal). But the rise in Aluminium car components, largely driven by stringent emission regulations, and pressure to improve fuel efficiency, is making a significant and increasing impact on global CO2 emissions.

Correction – in the last paragraph the electricity used for Aluminium production in 2014 should read 400 TwH, not 400 GwH (h/t Björn)

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November 22, 2015 3:39 am

Greens and many on the left do not know that making aluminum takes electricity, that iron is made with coal, or the closing coal facilities will massively increase prices.
They cannot connect A to B even when next to each other.

Ed Zuiderwijk
Reply to  E.M.Smith
November 22, 2015 5:30 am

Socialism is the ideology for people who can’t count.

Reply to  Ed Zuiderwijk
November 22, 2015 6:04 am

Ed Zuiderwijk:
Socialism is the ideology for people who count; i.e. everybody.

Evan Jones
Reply to  Ed Zuiderwijk
November 22, 2015 7:56 am

I think socialism is the wave of the future. But not for this particular century. (Maybe next time. At some point when robotics produces enough swag to gag us all in money?)

Bryan A
Reply to  Ed Zuiderwijk
November 22, 2015 9:03 am

But the purpose of utilizing robotics is to eliminate the need for human hands in selected phases of certain manufacturing processes. Eliminating the human element doesn’t create wealth for that eliminated human it just removes a job that would have employed a human. Robots could never “produce enough SWAG to gag us all in money”, they could only replace an otherwise qualified workforce and eliminate the need for payroll and human employment

Bryan A
Reply to  Ed Zuiderwijk
November 22, 2015 9:07 am

I have to ask, what do you do for a living and how would your SWAG and cash flow be affected if your job was being performed by a robot instead?

Reply to  Ed Zuiderwijk
November 22, 2015 9:38 am

Oh they can count, Ed – our money!

Chris Edwards
Reply to  Ed Zuiderwijk
November 22, 2015 12:26 pm

Socialism is the delusion for the simple minded! its never worked as advertised and never will but oh boy have the socialist elite made vast wealth from it!

Reply to  Ed Zuiderwijk
November 22, 2015 1:39 pm

GaG us all in money
For sum it will never be how much they have, rather how much more.

Reply to  Ed Zuiderwijk
November 23, 2015 6:29 am

Socialism is the ideology for those who want others to support them.

Reply to  Ed Zuiderwijk
November 23, 2015 6:30 am

Bryan, if your belief were correct, then the mechanization of farming, which once employed over 90% of the population should have impoverished the world.
The fact is, it made the world much richer.
When you figure out why, you will figure out why you too are wrong.

Chris Edwards
Reply to  MarkW
November 25, 2015 4:23 am

Having robots do work only makes money for the supplier and owner of robots! Over half of the USA on food stamps? That’s a result of socialism! I doubt companies invest on robots untill the workforce forces them to by being too low quality or too high price, socialis unions usualy achieve both, it’s interesting that it’s the socialist left that push the CO2 lie!

Reply to  Ed Zuiderwijk
November 24, 2015 3:57 am

Bryan A: Eliminating the human element doesn’t create wealth for that eliminated human it just removes a job that would have employed a human.
MarkWBryan, if your belief were correct, then the mechanization of farming, which once employed over 90% of the population should have impoverished the world.
The fact is, it made the world much richer.

In fact, both are right in a way. The original mecahnisation did in fact remove a job. That made the worker worse off in the short term. That worker could then go and do something else, so productivity goes up, and wealth increases. So it made the world much richer. In the long term, the original worker should take his share of the increased wealth as long as his labor is required for something.
It is not impossible that the world could be richer, yet the original worker could be poorer over his lifetime. That is, he dies before the long term comes about.
SO far mechanisation has aplways created new jobs for people to do. Althopugh machines seem to do complicated tasks, they actually do very simple things. The loom, for example, simply throws a shuttle back and forth and lifts threads up and down. A person is still required to do the complicated tasks of operating the machine and sweeping the floor – which is actually a very complex task for a machine.
Machines are now getting so sophisticated that it is not impossible they could perform even the most complicated task that people do. The world will become much richer, but we will need a new mechanism to distribute that wealth as work becomes a thing of the past. Othrwise we may all die before the long term comes about.

Keith Willshaw
Reply to  E.M.Smith
November 22, 2015 6:23 am

Most modern greens know little or nothing of the real world. The majority of those I have met are from prosperous middle class families and seem to think that food, money and clothing appear as if by magic. The sad thing is that this undermines old fashioned environmental campaigners like myself who have real concern for the country and its people but realize our lifestyle depends on cheap energy and that current renewables don’t cut it.

Reply to  Keith Willshaw
November 22, 2015 9:04 am

Absolutely true. The only thing that matters is high-minded, phony, sanctimonious intentions. End results, no matter how bad, are unimportant.

Reply to  E.M.Smith
November 22, 2015 8:31 am

A problem many have but it appears especially acute on the Left side of the political spectrum. I’ve heard it said a Leftist wants to replace what works with what sounds good, seems fairly accurate.
Starting with a physics degree, I’ve spend the past 40 years in systems analysis/systems engineering, including a lot of computer simulation. It amazes me how most people don’t even think enough to get the first order effects right (if we do this unicorns will smile!) and are completely incapable of thinking about the results on the interconnected systems we have. This is a prime example.

November 22, 2015 4:06 am

I worked many years and helped earn many mortgage payments at coal plants providing electric power for aluminum production. Also visited many plants that employed thousands that are now shut down. Production moved overseas. The fact is, it takes between 5 and 7kWh to produce one pound of aluminum. It is very electricity intense primary metals production. The U.S.A. Jobs are missed too. Thank the Democrat Party and Obama for the job losses. In addition are the National Security aspects of losing so much mining and manufacturing of critical metals and materials.

Reply to  dickstormprobizblog
November 22, 2015 4:31 am

Thanks! Specific electricity content of aluminum is conspicuously absent from the article complaining about the electricity content of aluminum.

Reply to  dickstormprobizblog
November 22, 2015 7:37 am

I am in the same business, Mr. Storm. I have seen plant after plant close down in the US due to the considerable smelter load being lost. So we just move all the jobs, profits and emissions to another country so the greens can feel good. What a waste.

Paul Westhaver
Reply to  dickstormprobizblog
November 22, 2015 10:33 am

Aluminum is used in solar panels and is shiny so the moron greens therefore think it is good for all worldly applications. If Aluminum was naturally green in color, making steel would be a capital offense…. under the twit in the Whitehouse.

November 22, 2015 4:08 am

Another important aspect is that the so-called greens killed off the nuclear power industry and took a tremendous base load power source off the table. The only reliable base load source that does not require flooding river valleys or produces CO2., NOx, SOx or soot.

Reply to  hunter
November 24, 2015 4:20 am

Very true. Fear of nuclear has denied us an excellent source of low cabon energy. Unless you are French, of course.

November 22, 2015 4:09 am

Since I lost a finger I can only count to 9 but as I work in Politicians office, I can take my shoes off under the desk in an emergency. and count with my toes, a question,? dies all electricity come out of wires ? I found some wires on the way home, but they had no trickery left inside how can I recharge them?
sarc off

November 22, 2015 4:09 am

Doesn’t recycling all those aluminium sugary drinks cans use less energy than smelting the stuff? Oops, I forgot, sugary drinks are a no-no. This joined-up thinking thing is impressive, isn’t it.

Reply to  Roderick
November 22, 2015 4:55 am

Relax, beer is OK.

Reply to  TonyL
November 22, 2015 7:57 am

I make beer and use recycled glass bottles. Am I saving the planet?

Reply to  TonyL
November 22, 2015 2:04 pm

I don’t know about saving the planet – maybe a bit, perhaps – but I hope you are having a good time with the homebrew!

Patrick MJD
Reply to  TonyL
November 22, 2015 10:21 pm

Go to any bar, café, restaurant in Ethiopia and you will not see a new glass beer bottle (Maybe not at the Hilton). They are all washed and re-used. I think it is a good idea. You see trucks loaded with crates full of used beer bottles, almost all of them used many many times. You can tell because where the bottle sides contacts a surface (The crate or another bottle), they get “scuffed” which is “white-ish” in colour.

Reply to  Roderick
November 22, 2015 8:59 am

Yes recycling aluminium is one of best energy savers. About 60% is saved compared to making new. Sugary drinks are poison but enjoy if you want, I’d rather have beer for my poison.
barryjo, yes you and I are saving the planet by making beer and re-using glass bottles. I brew mead and use the glass bottles with the “swing caps”. We’ll have to swap recipes and samples some time. Hey it is as good a line of reasoning as anything the warmunists come up with and ours is a lot more fun 🙂

Reply to  TRM
November 22, 2015 9:35 am

Sorry. I use only kits.No recipe required. I have been gifted several cases of snap caps. I use them for my “taste testing”bottles.

Reply to  TRM
November 22, 2015 10:04 am

Beer adds CO2 to the atmosphere. You are doomed!

Reply to  TRM
November 22, 2015 5:38 pm

Slywolfe: I am 76 yo. I plan to go happy.

November 22, 2015 4:16 am

It is also interesting that Australia lost its Aluminium refineries mainly due to increasing energy costs associated with the failed carbon tax. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot… I am rapidly losing count of the number of stupid things our politicians do in the name of saving the planet when all they need to do is get out of the way, as the planet can take care of itself.

Ric Haldane
Reply to  sanaerchi
November 22, 2015 5:20 am

Great Britain has closed all four of their smelters also. Now they must import and pay shipping.

Reply to  Ric Haldane
November 22, 2015 8:39 am

I have the subjective impression that there has been a lot of consolidation/concentration/oligopolization in both energy and heavy metals industries….meanwhile, intentional inflation/debasement of currencies have driven many people to cheap trash which does not last and does not do the job as well while it does it at all…leaving them/us easy pickings for the power-mad set like cousin Obummer.
I consider the programmers at VW to be clever pranksters at worse, not the least bit scandalous. It is the EPA and IRS and DoS and HHS and HUD and both DoEs who have been behaving scandalously.

Reply to  sanaerchi
November 22, 2015 5:41 am

America is next. With Alcoa shutting down their domestic smelters due to high energy costs, the U.S. only has three major alumina refineries left – two in Texas and one in Louisiana.

Chris Edwards
Reply to  sanaerchi
November 22, 2015 12:19 pm

Ahh the great carbon credit scam and china and india received credits to ship the smelters there, likely without any of the equiptment to limit real pollution that first world countries insist on so carbon taxes demonstratably make pollution worse!

Reply to  sanaerchi
November 23, 2015 3:51 am

There is an aluminium smelter about 250 km south-west of where I am. See They say it’s one of two in the world making high-purity aluminium, and the only one using renewable energy. (Lake Manapouri was raised and a dam built, basically just for them.) This year they negotiated a special deal with Meridian Energy to get cut-price electricity, saying that they were losing money, there was a glut of aluminium production, and they’d sack 800 people and close the place if they didn’t get the deal they wanted. Of course it is overseas-owned. Near as I can figure, our Emissions Trading Scheme ( — read it and weep) adds about 4% to electricity prices.

Grey Lensman
November 22, 2015 4:29 am

massive hydroplant to supply power for aluminum smelting
The Icelanders committed themselves for this one

Billy Liar
Reply to  Grey Lensman
November 22, 2015 5:21 pm

It isn’t the only one, not even the biggest. There are two others, Straumsvik, operating since 1969 uses 2.65TWh/year; Grundartangi, opened in 1998 uses 5.2TWh/year and Fjardaal (which uses the power from Karahnjukar hydro) uses 4.6TWh/year. The total power produces 789,000 metric tonnes/year. According to the Icelanders it takes an average of 15.7kWh to smelt a kilogram of aluminium – 7.1kWh per pound – the top end of the range given by Dick Storm above. (all figures given are for 2010)

November 22, 2015 4:33 am

This demonstrates the problems with these type of restrictions. However, we need to know the fuel savings in order to know if this is a net positive or not. I am sure you will agree that a revenue neutral carbon tax would be much better. That would reduce carbon use and allow the market to allocate the cuts in the most appropriate place – be that aluminium or fuel.

Bubba Cow
Reply to  seaice
November 22, 2015 5:10 am

no more beer for this one

Reply to  seaice
November 22, 2015 5:13 am

Revenue neutral? How on Earth do you get revenue neutral? I suppose you have a plan to get the money back, away from the politicians after they already have their hands on it.
“allow the market to allocate the cuts in the most appropriate place”, OK, that makes good sense. But why would you need a tax to do it? Why would a market allocation of resources be any business of the government anyway?
A better way is to remove taxes and regulation and allow an open and free market allocate all of the relevant resources, materials and energy both.

Reply to  seaice
November 22, 2015 7:15 am

Wow, there are so many things wrong with that. If our increases in carbon dioxide were going to cause a dramatic warming we would be seeing a clear signal now that most everyone would agree on. A bit like germ theory of disease. Positive feedbacks “do” and usually rather dramatically. So 1st we’re trying (very expensively) fix a non-problem.
But, I really want to know what a “revenue neutral carbon tax” really means. It sounds all purty like a title to a song. I wish people would at least acknowledge that all taxes are collected at the point of a gun and distributed at the collectors whim.

Reply to  taz1999
November 22, 2015 10:33 am

Taz : See British Columbia – who claim to have a “Revenue Neutral” Carbon Tax. I doubt it, but Leo says it is. 😉 As does the BC govenment:

Reply to  seaice
November 22, 2015 7:27 am

Come on the alternative to using unwanted aluminum is not a carbon tax. We know the aluminium is not wanted because this is not market driven. The thing to do about CO2 is nothing CO2 is not a pollutant.

Evan Jones
Reply to  seaice
November 22, 2015 8:02 am

(Shakes head morosely.) If it were revenue neutral, we wouldn’t need a law for it. And CBO is only allowed to count the direct costs. They don’t get to count the cost of a business that never happened because of all this so-called “revenue neutral” stuff.

Reply to  Evan Jones
November 22, 2015 10:23 am

If bureaucrats are paid to administer redistribution, it is not revenue neutral.

Reply to  seaice
November 22, 2015 10:37 am

My car has an aluminum hood. I often drive between far northern CA and Palo Alto. With a strong tailwind my very economical Acura may get as much as 35mpg. Heading back home driving north on I-5 that same beneficial tailwind now becomes a headwind and my mileage will drop to around 30mpg. Does the Al in the hood offset the effects of Mother Nature?

Reply to  Allencic
November 23, 2015 2:46 am

No, but if you had a steel hood you might get 34.8mpg on your outward journey and 29.8 mpg on your return. If your car were lined with lead you might get 10mpg out and 8mpg back.

Reply to  seaice
November 23, 2015 1:07 am

Revenue neutral carbon tax? In your dreams and in my nightmares. A revenue neutral tax is the fiscal equivalent of a friction-less machine. No losses and so no harm done to the economy, fine in principle but impossible to achieve.

Reply to  seaice
November 23, 2015 2:49 am

My point is that if you are going to have some sort of regulation, it is better to do it by a revenue neutral tax than by fuel efficiency regulations because you then avoid the perverse unforseen consequences such as using more coal to reduce gasoline use.

Reply to  seaice
November 23, 2015 6:35 am

Why on earth would anyone want to actually cut CO2 emissions?

Reply to  MarkW
November 23, 2015 9:08 am

Why on earth would anyone want to actually cut CO2 emissions?
Gee, this whole blog must be a mystery to you.

Reply to  MarkW
November 23, 2015 9:32 am

Yes, why would anyone want to cut CO2 emissions?
More than 31,000 scientists and engineers are on record saying that CO2 is harmless, and beneficial to the biosphere. That number includes more than 9,000 who have PhD’s in the hard sciences. They know what they’re talking about.
CO2 has been almost twenty times (20X) higher in the past, without causing any runaway global warming (or any global warming, for that matter). When CO2 is high, the biosphere blooms with life and diversity.
The biosphere is currently starved of CO2. Fossil fuels emit harmless, beneficial CO2. Therefore, we should burn more fossil fuel. We are part of the biosphere. Let’s give it the food it needs. More CO2 is better; don’t starve the biosphere! Plants and animals are depending on us.

Reply to  MarkW
November 24, 2015 2:48 am

Without commenting on whether they are right or not, you surely understand why some people want to reduce CO2 emissions?
A recent post by Larry Kummer (Update on El Nino) contained the following: “This is a tactic loved by activists of Left and Right, stating a large scary number without context.”
db may not realise it, but that is exactly what he is doing with his 31,000 scientists. Totally without context. He of course refuses to ask an expert of his own choosing if he is right or not.

Reply to  MarkW
November 24, 2015 2:58 am

You ask

Without commenting on whether they are right or not, you surely understand why some people want to reduce CO2 emissions?

Of course I and others “understand why some people want to reduce CO2 emissions”: those “people” have been duped into thinking the emissions may cause some future harm.
I don’t know if you are one of the duped or – more likely – you are only one who attempts to mislead people into being duped into thinking the emissions may cause some future harm. You surely can say which?

Reply to  MarkW
November 24, 2015 4:25 am

Thank you richardscourtney. So given that they do want to reduce CO2, do you agree that it would be better done via a carbon tax than through this sort of direct regulation? The perverse incentive to use more aluminium regardless of energy use for the production of that aluminium would be removed.

November 22, 2015 4:53 am

EPA regulations to cut gasoline use, instead increase coal usage. How utterly predictable. The EPA becomes a bureaucratic monster so large it’s various divisions work at cross-purposes with each other.
Perhaps one of the worst, most destructive regulations ever from the EPA is the CAFE standard (Corporate Average Fuel Standard) along with emission standards and compliance rules.
How did it all work out?
In the 1990s, cars transformed from engines with carburetors and electro-mechanical ignitions to fuel injection and electronic ignition. The cars became vastly cleaner because of technology, not because of EPA rule making. None the less, EPA has stubbornly refused to revisit requirements for catalytic converters and the whole emissions regulation apparatus for passenger cars.
The state of Massachusetts conducts an experiment:
In 1990, 4% of registered passenger vehicles were light trucks, exempt from the worst of the regulations. Most of these were pickup trucks in the rural western part of the state.
By 2000, 52% of vehicles were in the exempt category, mostly SUVs in the congested eastern part of the state.
So what happened to air quality, after replacing half the fleet of emission controlled engines with larger non-controlled engines?
Air pollution monitoring saw no increase passenger vehicle pollution throughout the time frame. By this time, it was fair to say that EPA regulations were 20 years behind fleet technology, and that was 15 years ago.
In this day and age, it is a sight to behold that a Toyota Corolla, with it’s modest and efficient engine, is considered to be a menace to society and is weighted down with all kinds of expensive mandates and regulations. Meanwhile, the monstrous Cadillac Escalade gets a free pass, due to the historical light truck waiver.

Reply to  TonyL
November 22, 2015 7:39 am

Do these energy figures include the refining of the Alumina or just the energy required to turn the alumina into aluminum?

Billy Liar
Reply to  JimTech
November 22, 2015 5:27 pm

The 5-7kWh/pound is from alumina to aluminium. Bauxite to alumina is extra and produces lots of nasty waste.

Chris Edwards
Reply to  TonyL
November 22, 2015 12:32 pm

And they have to electronically cause a misfire to feed the cat! and proof the government knows CO2 is benign is that a cat multiplies the CO2 output considerably and in the UK modern cars will pass emission tests (with sniffers) without a cat! all I need to do is work out how to trick the downstream O2 sensor that the cat is still there and working, if the ecu thinks the cats well fed there will be no unburned hydrocarbons sent down to feed it!

Reply to  Chris Edwards
November 22, 2015 11:52 pm

Thread is getting old, but maybe you will see.
Just replace the O2 sensor with a simple resistor of the appropriate value. The computer will see the electrical signal it wants, and will be happy. This should help you in a web search for the correct information, as now you know exactly what to look for.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Chris Edwards
November 23, 2015 1:55 am

Yes you can fool an ECU with sensor “by passes”.

richard verney
November 22, 2015 5:13 am

Cars are way too heavy, and have got heavier over the years. The weight of the car not only impacts upon performance (acceleration and fuel economy) but also the way it handles when thrown into a corner, or the manner in which it responds in S bends.
I have a small 1969 car, it has aluminium panels (bonnet, boot and doors) and weighs in at 810kg. Although it does not have fuel injection, but rather carburettors (1 per cylinder), its fuel economy up to about 70 miles per hour is not materially worse than modern cars. Driving at a steady 60mph, it provides a decent economy. However, its economy falls off dramatically above 100mph which is partly due to the large carburettors but also no doubt due to aerodynamics. Modern cars are much more aerodynamic.
It would not surprise me if the law of unintended consequences raises its ugly head, as is suggested in this article. There is more and more usage of exotic materials, and generally these are more energy intensive in the manufacturing stage.

Tom Judd
Reply to  richard verney
November 22, 2015 6:29 am

A lot of the weight on modern cars is the direct result of government regulations. In the US when federal safety regulations came on strong in the late 1960s the federal government was loathe to consult with the auto industry concerning those regulations. Instead, they relied on the insurance industry. Seemed reasonable, but what the insurance industry partially did was redirect those regulations towards reducing their collision damage payouts. The majority of their outlays went to vehicle body shops. So, as a ‘safety’ regulation we got the battering ram bumpers we see on cars today. These easily add 100 pounds to the weight of a car.
Any potential government regulation inevitably attracts the lobbyists, rent seekers, and crony capitalists. Some regulation may be essential but unless something’s put in place to stop it it becomes a hydra headed monster. CAGW will promote the mother of the regulatory demon.

Reply to  Tom Judd
November 22, 2015 7:45 am

Safety regulations suck until you are in a car accident.
And maybe we shouldn’t regulate and license doctors? Doesn’t that just push up the price of health care?

Reply to  Tom Judd
November 22, 2015 2:25 pm

And most of us will never be in an accident where those features are beneficial. Just like I’ve had the hassle of wearing a seatbelt for thirty years, and never seen any benefit from doing so, our modern cars have to carry around hundreds of kilograms of safety measures that few people will ever need.
How about, you know, letting people decide how much they value safety over economy or other features when they buy a car, instead of telling them they MUST BE SAFE?
As for doctors, you’re right. Medical regulation achieves little other than to push up the cost of healthcare. Most of the time when we’ve been to doctors in the last few years, we already knew what the problem was, but needed a doctor to sign a magic piece of paper allowing us to buy the drugs we knew we needed because… Government-Medical Complex.

Reply to  Tom Judd
November 23, 2015 6:41 am

The vast majority of the time, when you visit the doctor, you would get just as much benefit from visiting a nurse or nurse practitioner instead.
However govt regulations require you to visit a doctor, and only a doctor.
Licensing doesn’t have to mean govt licensing.
Just as UL does a much better job than the govt could.

Keith Willshaw
Reply to  richard verney
November 22, 2015 6:56 am

Most small 1969 cars were absolute death traps. One of the main reasons modern cars are heavier is they are required to keep passengers safe in a low to medium speed collision. In 1973 I was a witness to a crash in an urban environment that killed the driver and front seat passenger in the year old mini they were driving. The drive was impaled by the steering wheel and the passenger died from blood loss. Impact speed was less than 40 mph.
Then there is the matter of braking and steering. Most small cars of that era still had drum brakes, crossply tyres and no power assistance to braking or steering and had little chance of reaching 85 mph much less 100. I vividly recall how I ended up literally standing on the brake pedal on one of the small cars of that era when I had to do crash stop from 70 mph on a motorway after a truck jacknifed in front of me.
The reality is most modern cars in Europe are MUCH more fuel efficient than the cars of that period.
As a passing thought here is a little compare and contrast for the entry level vehicles with 1 litre engines
1976 Ford Fiesta
Top Speed 81 mph
0- 60 mph 18.6 s
Drum Brakes
Fuel consumption 37 mpg
CO2 Emissions 179 g/Km
2016 Ford Fiesta
Top Speed 103 mph
0- 60 mph 14.9 s
Disc Brakes
Fuel consumption 65 mpg
CO2 Emissions 98 g/Km

Reply to  Keith Willshaw
November 22, 2015 7:30 am

Care to show sizes of cars, care to show crash test results?

Evan Jones
Reply to  Keith Willshaw
November 22, 2015 8:11 am

It would be interesting, but cars are less dangerous now. Awareness plus modern technology and design planning have done a lot for auto safety. There’s a whole crash-test sub-industry going on nowadays.
I remember my cousin calling me a few years back, telling me that her car had crashed and was inoperable. When I arrived on the scene, I realized she had meant the car’s computer had crashed. And, yes, that meant the car was inoperable.

Reply to  Keith Willshaw
November 22, 2015 8:45 am

1973… belts, air bags, collapsible steering column?
BTW, you didn’t “literally” stand on the brake pedal; you stood on it figuratively.

Reply to  Keith Willshaw
November 22, 2015 9:07 am
richard verney
Reply to  Keith Willshaw
November 22, 2015 9:12 am

There was a different approach to the design of cars. In the past, the car was built for strength, and would stand up well to impacts. The steel was thicker, the wings were welded, not bolted on, bumpers were steel and usually located back to the chassis. Modern cars are designed to crumple on impact, thereby absorbing energy but doing considerable damage to the vehicle. There are pros and cons to these different approaches, and how the occupant would fair depends upon the nature of the accident. I do not accept that old cars were death traps, but I do accept that there have been safety advances, although from seat belt design, I would much prefer the old design where one was strapped tight in, with all but no movement (provided that it was put on properly but many people did not and left the belt slack, or did not wear a set belt at all), compared to inertia reel, which then because of movement required air bags to stop the occupant from hitting themselves on internal objects.
But my original comment was with respect to weight, and pointing out that many cars in the past already had aluminium panels, or even the entire body was aluminium. This was not particularly unusual with Italian cars of the 60s and 70s.
My car has all round discs (the size of diner plates) with 4 pot callipers at the front, and 2 pot at the rear. Of course, I do accept that some small cars had drums, or at the front, discs but with single pot sliding callipers. But again braking performance is a factor of weight; the lighter the car, the easier to bring it to a halt.
As regards fuel consumption, in the past this was based upon real world experience. Say a magazine such as Road & Track would road test a vehicle over a thousand or so miles and would report its consumption. Whereas today, most fuel consumption figures are out by about 30%, some even more than that. The government test allows manufacturers to remove the wipers, remove the mirrors, disconnect the alternator, air-con, radiator cooling fans, even to tape up the doors and the tyres are usually over inflated by about 50% to reduce rolling resistance. Maybe even the wheels are changed and power steering disconnected. In every day use, the fiesta will not return anything like the 65 mpg claimed by the manufacturer..
See for example;
Read more:

WhatCar? carried out testin association with Tesco’s filling stations,
For example, it said that official figures showed the Kia Picanto 1.0 2 did 67.3mpg while the magazine’s own test gave a much lower figure of 41.2mpg. This is a difference of over 25 miles a gallon.
Similarly, the official mpg figure for the Nissan Micra 1.2 DIG-S Shiro was 65.7 while the WhatCar? figure was 44.1mpg.
The official figure for the Ford Focus 1.6TDci 115 Zetec was 67.3mpg compared with WhatCar’s 43.1mpg

I know from many years and many tens of thousands of miles of motoring that my 1969 Lancia which has a little more power than my modern 2 litre VW Golf GTi has far superior fuel economy around town (urban driving) and better economy up to about 60 mph. In press on regardless driving, the Lancia is less fuel efficient but then again it is quicker than the Golf, and at 70 mph and above the Golf wins out, but that is largely due to gearing; the Lancia has direct 1:1 gearing in 5th, whereas the Golf has overdrive gearing in top, and the Lancia is geared down to around 18 miles per thousand revs whereas the Golf is doing more than 23 per thousand revs. At about 3500 rpm, the carburettors (1 per cylinder) begin to chuck in a lot of fuel, whereas the fuel injection of the Golf is better managed.
On paper they look fairly similar but for the weight (810 kg verses ~1330 kg), but it is this weight difference which gives vastly different on the road real life performance, and enables an old less efficient car to produce better or same economy within the legal speed limits.

Chris Edwards
Reply to  Keith Willshaw
November 22, 2015 12:36 pm

Just how does that work as the 76 had no cat! and I doubt in the real world the fiesta gets 65, the european small TDis don’t get much better than that, In England all fiestas had disks up front! I detect a rodent here!

Chris Edwards
Reply to  Keith Willshaw
November 22, 2015 12:43 pm

Nope the fuel consumption is the same but I expect if you use the better power and performance it won’t be! the worst fuel consumption of any car I have driven was a 1.2 Clio, on a hast drive to Liverpool from Cornwall it managed 14 my 1.9 TDi citroen did 50, which was the cleaner?

Bryan A
Reply to  Keith Willshaw
November 22, 2015 7:40 pm

2016 Ford Fiesta stats from Ford
Price $14,032
Mileage EPA estimates 28 mpg city 36 mpg hwy actual mileage “will be less” by about 15% so 22/28|17356193080|55780731&ef_id=VJyCjQAAAQPT4JJE:20151123033203:s

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Keith Willshaw
November 23, 2015 2:40 am

“richard verney
November 22, 2015 at 9:12 am”
With regards to brakes, drums are more efficient for big loads. It’s why you don’t see discs on large trucks. The drums on trucks are so large the heat is managed and dissipated, as well as 105psi air pressure, they just work.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Keith Willshaw
November 23, 2015 2:48 am

“Chris Edwards
November 22, 2015 at 12:43 pm”
This is the issue. Small and clean in the lab, but has to “work hard” to do anything useful. 1970’s anyone? What were you carrying in that 1.2ltr Clio from Cornwall? Its a “5” seater, so 5 people plus “some” luggage? Well overloaded for a 1.2ltr engine on UK motorways. I had the same issue with my 1.2 Vauxhaul Corsa.

Reply to  richard verney
November 22, 2015 10:39 am

The “Law of Unintended Consequences” has already kicked in. If the US needed Aluminum due to a war footing, where would they get it from:
Note – US refineries are closed or closing.
The “war on climate” is having some interesting consequences. The US is busy making itself NON-Selfsuffient.

Reply to  Wayne Delbeke
November 22, 2015 3:12 pm

That is, of course, the goal. It’s never been about ‘saving the planet’, it’s about destroying the West.

November 22, 2015 5:26 am

“Aluminium usage in cars surged from 2.6 million tons in 2012, to 3.4 million tons in 2015, a rise of 0.8 million tons”
OK, but how much of that simply reflects the increase in the number of cars made?

Samuel C. Cogar
November 22, 2015 5:38 am

America can not produce aluminum or steel via use of “green” energy.

Century Aluminum permanently closes Ravenswood, WV plant
Closing ending a years-long battle with public officials, former employees and utility companies, Century Aluminum announced at 8 p.m. July 27 it will permanently close its Ravenswood, WV plant, effective immediately.
The Ravenswood smelter had been idled since February 2009, putting 650 employees out of work. The company eventually eliminated health insurance coverage for its retirees after the closure.
The decision to permanently close the Ravenswood plant is based on the inability to secure a competitive power contract for the smelter, compounded by challenging aluminum market conditions largely driven by increased exports of aluminum from China,” Century’s statement reads. “As a result, the economics of restarting and operating the facility are unfavorable.

Read more @
And Obama’s shutting down of coal fired power plants in WV not only added insult to Century Aluminum’s injury but also put hundreds (100s) of coal miners out of work, …. took tens of million$ in revenues away from local communities and “support” businesses …. and forced an increase in the cost of electricity for all citizens and busineses.
Why worry about ISIS when you got Obama et el and the “looney” left “calling-the-shots”?

November 22, 2015 6:10 am

Just don’t call idiots that can’t think of consequences as ‘liberals’.
There is nothing liberal in standard left-wing politics. It is liberal to let gay be gay. It is not liberal to try to enforce me to like gay. Subsidy has nothing liberal in. The very golden American ‘live and let live’ is a truely liberal view.

Ben Palmer
Reply to  Hugs
November 22, 2015 6:50 am


Reply to  Hugs
November 22, 2015 9:54 am

Wasn’t that libertarian?

Tom in Florida
Reply to  Hugs
November 22, 2015 11:49 am

You are correct.

Chris Edwards
Reply to  Hugs
November 22, 2015 12:14 pm

Look up “classic liberal” not adulterated bastardized liberal wrecking our world today! and I can’t tell the difference between classic liberal and libertarian! perhaps modern liberal is short for libertine! as for the article is seems dead right!

John Leggett
Reply to  Hugs
November 22, 2015 1:31 pm

Libertarian = classic liberal. Modern liberal = totalitarian Fascist.

Gerry, England
Reply to  Hugs
November 22, 2015 4:16 pm

Liberals are the most illiberal people you could meet.

Reply to  Hugs
November 22, 2015 8:58 pm

Liberals, leftists, socialists, progressives, communists–The political left wing periodically latches onto a new definition of itself. After their actions make the new, formerly respecable, term synonymous with lies and intolerance, they jettison that defintion and change names for themselves again–and again.
“An important art of politicians is to find new names for institutions or actions which under their old names have become odious to the public.” Carl Sagan

November 22, 2015 6:15 am

Welding aluminium is all but easy…

richard verney
Reply to  JP
November 22, 2015 9:25 am

And, not only is that a problem, Aluminium & Steel do not cohabit well side by side due to bimetallic galvanic corrosion.

Tom Judd
Reply to  richard verney
November 22, 2015 2:31 pm

I say the hell with galvanic (I think that’s what it is) corrosion. I’m the proud owner of a 26 year old, impossible to find parts for, Alfa Romeo Milano. Anyway, unlike old guys like me who are almost impossible to get hot, old cars have no trouble overheating: Welcome to my Alfa.
I know; it must be the thermostat. So, after ordering one from an outlet 1,500 miles away I decided to replace it myself. How hard could it be?
So, I put the 10mm socket on one of the three bolts holding it on to the engine. Not a budge. I know, I’ll put a 1/2″ to 3/8″ drive adaptor on that socket, and then the biggest baddest 1/2″ drive breaker bar I’ve got on it. Gosh, it’s turning now. A little more. And a little more. Sheared the head of that bolt right on off.
Well, it’s time to bring it in and let a professional do it. A friend of mine, who headed up a fleet service facility for 20 years made me feel like a real dufus for snapping that head off. “Couldn’t you work it a little, ease it back and forth, rap it, loosen it up?”
So, with my tail between my legs (have I said that’s where it usually is?) I brought it to the shop apologizing for the fact that they’d have to drill out the broken bolt.
Guess what? They had to drill out not one, but two broken bolts. They sheared the head off one of them too.
The thermostat on the Alfa has an integral aluminum housing. The bolts holding it on are steel. And the whole thing is in the presence of antifreeze which is 50% water. If you want something to rust that’s how to do it.
Were the engineers at Alfa stupid? No. Their bean counters are cheap. The costs of isolating the bolts, or putting some sort of sacrificial anode (I guess) aren’t worth it for a part that may not be replaced till the car is as old as I am.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  richard verney
November 23, 2015 2:15 am

“Tom Judd
November 22, 2015 at 2:31 pm”
Not Alfas but Land Rovers. Spring shackle bolts rusted on for 30 or 40 years. Two solutions, the gas axe, or weeks and weeks of WD40.

Gregg C.
Reply to  richard verney
November 25, 2015 5:52 am

The Chevrolet Vega was one of these engineering marvels with an aluminum block and steel cylinders. Ummm. they MIGHT expand at different rates under heating?? Every one of these things burned oil after 15,000 miles and never quit.
A few years later they figured out how to make steel cylinder sleeves in the ‘DuraBuild’ engine.

Paul Westhaver
Reply to  JP
November 22, 2015 10:11 am

I am the world worst welder. So for cosmetic aluminum projects I use this technique and product:

Reply to  Paul Westhaver
November 22, 2015 3:16 pm

Sorry Paul, but I’ve tried those Aluminum brazing rods you buy on eBay and they absolutely don’t work. It’s a scam. Rather than show us a commercial, show us a video of the brazing jobs that *you* have done.

Paul Westhaver
Reply to  Paul Westhaver
November 22, 2015 5:42 pm

I got mine from Harbor Freight and soldered a 6061 frame together for a mural my daughter wanted to mount. I had to use a brass brush to clean the Al since ferric contamination interferes with the bond. So it worked for me. Also I did some practice runs to learn how to use them.
As far as making videos, That is something I never do. I have never taken a picture or video and uploaded to a web site. Never. My business is copyright, patents, trademarks, and other various intellectual property and I treat my work as private. This is the only blog to which I contribute, and I don’t do twitter, facebook, never google, etc etc… The video above is a reasonable representation of my work so it suffices. With the Harbor Freight alloy rods, and a brass brush and propane, it worked just fine. It is soldering, NOT welding.
Try it again. Imagine aluminum oxide ceramic coating the surface of your work. You must be quick to brush off the ceramic, and never touch the area to be soldered, and apply heat. It works.

Reply to  Eric Worrall
November 22, 2015 4:14 pm

Eric: Yup, I welded up an aluminum boat ladder in metal shop project in the early 60’s using aluminum sticks in a welder … although nowadays there is much better equipment for welding aluminum. Properly equipped shops do it well. It takes a bit more patience to weld aluminum so the last time I need aluminum repairs on my horse trailer, I took it to the shop. Perfect job, good as new. I do like what Paul showed though.

November 22, 2015 6:45 am

I read this blog quite often but have yet to comment. However in this case I believe I can make a contribution (I’m doing a phd in industrial ecology, which is a small scientific field that deals exactly with how to answer these kind of questions). The question here is: does the increased environmental impact of more aluminium manufacturing offset the environmental benefits of lighter (and therefore more fuel efficient) cars? As I am sure the author of this post knows very well, this has been studied many times (key terms to look for using google scholar is LCA or life cycle assessment). The answer is that the lower fuel consumption over the average lifetime of a car will be much more significant than the increase of coal consumption for aluminium production. So yes, aluminium cars are more environmentally friendly, despite that they cause an increase in coal use.
Anyway, this blog is a source of endless entertainment for me and my colleagues, so keep up the good work!

Paul Westhaver
Reply to  benben
November 22, 2015 10:26 am

ben ben,
… ahhh except…
You say,
“The answer is that the lower fuel consumption over the average lifetime of a car will be much more significant than the increase of coal consumption for aluminium production. So yes, aluminium cars are more environmentally friendly, despite that they cause an increase in coal use.”
If one uses steels that have a strength to weight ratios 7 X that of Aluminum and 1/6 the cost then the argument falls apart.
The real answer is:
The answer is that the lower fuel consumption over the average lifetime of a car will be much more significant with the the decrease of coal consumption for high strength steel production. So no, aluminium cars are not more environmentally friendly, because they cause an increase in coal use and are heavier than state-of-the-art steels.
You see, you created a false alternative. Aluminum verse Steel. In reality, you must also consider all metals vs steel and high strength steel wins compared to all materials (except for non-load bearing components like carpets etc)
Aluminum use is yet another CAGW activist style over substance conjecture.

Reply to  Paul Westhaver
November 23, 2015 4:45 am

Hello Paul, I appreciate the argument you make. During my work I have had dozens of presentations of people working for TATA steel, on exactly the topic of what steel to use for what part in the car to optimize the overall weight. You are right that the aluminium vs steel choice is a false one. The automotive industry has dozens of materials to choose from. Each year they improve their materials so the overall weight of the vehicle goes down. This is partially due to aluminium use and partially due to other high-tech steels. It should be noted that these novel high tech steels contain very significant amounts of alloying elements such as nickel, chrome and vanadium, so the overall energy use for production of those is also much higher than that of ‘normal’ steel.
The point is that this question of what materials to choose is exhaustively calculated in LCA studies, with the overall results being that lighter vehicles are an overall benefit for both the environment and the consumer (lower fuel consumption = cheaper). The line of reasoning presented in this blog post (aluminium use coal… aluminium BAAAAAD!!!) is painfully simplistic.

Chris Edwards
Reply to  benben
November 23, 2015 4:55 am

The fancy metals are also better at corroding , both the steel and aluminium alloys react well with salt! And are harder or cannot be welded with shop equipment so negate any emission savings! I suspect the fuel and power benifits have basically overcome the loss of power from the loss of octane resulting from the demonising of tetraethel lead! ( not that uk inner city lead levels dropped)

Reply to  Paul Westhaver
November 23, 2015 6:47 am

Chris Edwards, these new high-performance metals are much better at resisting corrosion, and so is aluminium. That has absolutely nothing to do with being pro or against environment, left or right or whatever. And please do prove the world wrong in thinking that heavy metals poisoning exists. As a real scientist I’m all for experimentation. I recommend sniffing a hefty dose of tetrahedrallead and reporting back in this thread how that went for you 😉

Chris Edwards
Reply to  benben
November 23, 2015 3:34 pm

I have been repairing cars for over 30 years and exotic steels tot away faster than low carbon! 5 year old F150 trucks with no rockers( sills) can’t buy aftermarket as it’s very highly strength steel and you destroy its properties if you mig weld it! Not much advantage for the consumer( on a truck with a frame???) as for criticizing my autocorrect?? Dumb and the fact is there was a school by the main motorway junction in to London where the lead levels were used to foist unleaded ( really still had it in!) in us and a couple of years later lead levels were the same! Funny how a light metal like lead just flutters around in the air!

Billy Liar
Reply to  Paul Westhaver
November 23, 2015 8:55 am

A real scientist might have noticed that tetrahedrallead does not exist. Tetraethyl lead is the anti-knock compound that is used in leaded fuels.
I also presume a real scientist would know that the June 1935 heatwave in India was pretty bad too – and before CO2 played any part in ‘global warming’.

Chris Edwards
Reply to  Billy Liar
November 23, 2015 3:20 pm

Better take that up
With the genius who programmed the autocorrect and as you understood you are being pedantic!

Paul Westhaver
Reply to  Paul Westhaver
November 23, 2015 1:05 pm

So your fundamental argument falls to reduced fuel consumption.
Now we know, and you agree, that Aluminum is not the answer specifically because if cost is at play as it is in fuel economy, then so is is the capital cost of the vehicles. That rules out aluminum. Aluminum is a canard.
What we are left with is total fuel use as it relates to CO2. CO2 concentration in the atmosphere and CO2 as it relates to my wallet.
Since anthropogenic CO2 is plant food and has no credible connection with our non-warming planet then there is ZERO environmental incentive to reduce CO2 production. NOx and SOx and soot and ash are quite another matter.
Since your entire presence here is now distilled to one of CO2 reduction advocacy and that is a CAGW alarmist goal and not science, I would say that you are therefore done.
Aluminum cars are nonsense wrt ecology and economy. There are better, cheaper, lighter, materials other than aluminum, and CO2 is plant food.
So…What else is there? nuttin.

Reply to  Paul Westhaver
November 24, 2015 1:29 am

@ chris edwards, sorry for being pedantic:) you probably make a good point about the repairability of vehicles with these new materials. I don’t know anything about that though, so I’ll just concede the point.
@ Billy Liar, *sigh* there is such a thing as statistics (and also that if this was the biggest heatwave ever, it was by definition worse than the 1935 one you refer to). I know, I know, this is not the right crowd for that.
@ Paul Westhaver, indeed the argument falls to reduced fuel consumption. But your line of argumentation is somehow off. You seem to assume that aluminium use is something mandated by the green lobby, while in reality nobody cares what materials you use for your vehicle as long as this years model improves on last years model in a) overall cost of ownership, b) emissions of NOx, SOx and CO2, and c) driving properties (for those people that care). Car companies will then use a wide variety of materials to achieve these goals. Aluminium is just one of them. If it wouldn’t improve on the above somehow they wouldn’t use it (except of course where car companies try to screw over their customers e.g. VW, but that is a whole different story).
The second point of your argumentation hinges on the fact that you actually prefer to have more CO2. That’s fine. You’re entitled to your opinion. This is the WUWT blog after all! However, the central point of this blog post is that aluminium use will increase CO2 emissions, which is plain wrong. Whether CO2 is a relevant goal is a different discussion which we are not having at this moment.

Paul Westhaver
Reply to  Paul Westhaver
November 24, 2015 7:34 am

“This is the WUWT blog after all! However, the central point of this blog post is that aluminium use will increase CO2 emissions, which is plain wrong. ”
I don’t at all feel confined by the central point of the author. ??? And I don’t think I ought. Certainly you bear no influence on me in that regard.
“You seem to assume that aluminium use is something mandated by the green lobby, ”
It is. You may read ALL of the posts. You are my foil. I am speaking to them even if YOU think I am responding to just you… like right now.
“companies try to screw over their customers e.g. VW”
VW did not try and screw over their customers because few of them care about EPA emissions tests except that they want to pass them and get their state sticker and be left alone and not have a huge maintenance bill. VW did what I would do. Exploit the test scheme. I doubt any laws were broken and ALL car companies exploit the test in some way. VW, the largest car company in the world and set up using a non standard undocumented arbitrary test, to create VW as a scapegoat, so that OBAMA and GM can restrict sales of foreign auto in the USA.
The exploit is available as a feature in several cars, Subaru for instance.
The aftermarket has dealt the biggest blow to the EPA psycho overlords…
These guys actually re-flashed a GOLF GTI. LOL

The customers want performance not green putz-mobiles.

Reply to  Paul Westhaver
November 25, 2015 5:19 am

“the EPA psycho overlords…”
You know, it’s interesting. You are discussing this with one of those people you seem to dislike the most. And environmental scientist, involved in all of these green things. To be honest, I don’t feel that ‘psycho’ is a very good description of my personality, or my scientific work. And you seem to be less interested in having an actual discussion with me and more interested in using this blog as an outlet for your rather unpleasantly formulated world views. Too bad. Have a nice day!

Reply to  benben
November 25, 2015 5:52 am


You know, it’s interesting. You are discussing this with one of those people you seem to dislike the most. And environmental scientist, involved in all of these green things. To be honest, I don’t feel that ‘psycho’ is a very good description of my personality, or my scientific work.

Then, let us ask: Is your work completely free of your biases and hatreds? Is your work “ever” influenced by the “rewards” of “How can I write this result up for my next paper?”
What will my grant be next year?
How can I get more money (for me, for my project, for my agency) next year?
Does my boss like me, or will she oppose me and my grants next year?
What can I do to get more support (more security, a longer grant) from Washington for my research?
What can I change so my next paper can pass “peer review” without edits or requirements from the reviewer?
Now, how many bureaucrats can I buy for 92 billion dollars in three years?
How many politicians can I buy for 31 trillion in carbon credits per year?
Hansen received millions in grants and gifts internationally for his work lying about climate change. (Well, for his world-wide propaganda antics as well.) Is HIS agency – the agency HE ran with an iron dictator’s hand – free of bias and political influence from above?

Chris Edwards
Reply to  RACookPE1978
November 25, 2015 7:55 pm

In fairness the epa are psychotic dishonest tyrants! Our cars rust and rot because the epa stopped the use of chromate primers, on cars that were dipped so atomization was no issue! Look at the USA epa out of control !

Paul Westhaver
Reply to  Paul Westhaver
November 25, 2015 9:06 am

Whoa!… read what you’ve been writing.
You’ve personalized every comment and inserted your own framework as a test of relevancy, and now you assumed a general statement about an overreaching EPA as a personal slight. You are not the arbiter of the blog entry, you are not the judge of right and wrong, or the decider of the bounds of inquiry. This is comment section of one of thousands of posts of a web log. Think about it.
Example of the absolutely psycho EPA overlords at work…

If that is you benben… and why wouldn’t it since you are using an alias, then put that shoe on if it fits.
If you give a green activist enough time, disassemble his reasoning carefully, it all comes down to irrational beliefs, green religious convictions and a pathology of some sort. Just keep talking, I am sure your razor wit, self-proclaimed “science” credentials, and need to control a discussion is inviting a legion of converts to the religion of green. Now that I turn the hurdy-gurdy of reason shall the green monkey dance.

Reply to  Paul Westhaver
November 25, 2015 2:21 pm

@ RACookPE1978, interesting questions! Ok I will answer you honestly. We’re both anonymous here, so why not 🙂 first I should note that I am based in currently Europe, but I’ll move the the US next year (see below).
“Is your work completely free of your biases and hatreds?”
I can honestly say hatred is not something that comes into play. I’m sure you see passionate debates on TV all the time, but the actual doing of science is way too dry and slow for emotions. Bias… I’m not sure. I try to at least be aware of my biases and preferences and actively engage in ‘devils advocate’ type of thinking exercises to see if my work is as value free as possible (which is why I read this blog in the first place), but of course it is impossible to rule out. That being said, the scientific method (i.e. falsification) is designed to rule out bias. I’m sure you guys won’t believe me, but we really try to adhere to it as much as possible.
“Is your work “ever” influenced by the “rewards” of “How can I write this result up for my next paper?””
I assume you mean to ask if I change my results to get to higher chance of publication. No, I have never done that and I personally don’t know anyone who has.
“What will my grant be next year?”
Aaah….. the universal question. Yes that kind of sucks. I am fortunate that I already have a grant for next year, paid for by the US department of defence. I’m sure you guys are aware of this, but the DoD actually rates climate change as the #1 threat to national security on medium to long term.
“What can I change so my next paper can pass “peer review” without edits or requirements from the reviewer?”
Ha, I’ve never been able to pass peer review without reviewer comments, and neither has anyone I know. I’ve also been rejected a couple of times (both by Nature and Science a few months back!). As a reviewer I always give extensive comments, and have rejected a few papers. The only reason I reject a paper is if its crap research (e.g. extrapolation from just two datapoints or something like that), not ever if I disagree with the results.
Does this help? I’d be happy to answer any other interesting questions!

Chris Edwards
Reply to  benben
November 22, 2015 12:49 pm

Not in Canada the alloys used in automotive panel production are not pure and react nicely with the salt on the roads! and what about the difficulty of repair? there is a lot more panels replaced where if steel, as well as being stronger are simply repaired! (you won’t pin out a dent on aluminium) You need specialised equipment to repair aluminium and you can’t use the same tool set because of corrosion issues, automotive is complicated, stopping the use of decent primer because of a minor and pointless ecological issue means cars rot badly and need replacing with the pollution and cost that carries!

Reply to  Chris Edwards
November 23, 2015 4:36 am

Good argument, but actually aluminium would be much, much better for your use case, because aluminium doesn’t corrode in the same way steel does. The initial layer of oxide in aluminium will form a barrier preventing further oxidation. This is different in steel, where even the tiniest patch of of oxidation will start eating through the entire steel structure. In other words, steel rusts away while aluminium doesn’t. Material sciences my man! It’s interesting stuff 🙂
Minor and pointless ecological issues for you maybe. I was in India last summer. They had a massive unprecedentedly extreme heatwave. It was so hot, housands of people died. Not reported on this blog obviously.

Billy Liar
Reply to  Chris Edwards
November 23, 2015 2:55 pm

benben, since you’re so knowledgeable about aluminium, tell me, how well does it do in the marine environment? (or anywhere else there might be salt on the road for example)

Chris Edwards
Reply to  Billy Liar
November 23, 2015 3:05 pm

That depends on the alloy! The jet nozzles the RAF used when liberating the Falklands were all written off with corrosion! Range Rovers had bad corrosion issues and the GM alloy hoods rot out badly, and I’m told that a ditched spitfire in one tide will have lost the light alloy instrument bezels! So yes pure aluminium is great in marine but impure or wrong alloy ( magnesium and titanium for sure) not so much!!

Samuel C. Cogar
Reply to  benben
November 23, 2015 3:56 am

@ ben ben,
Fact is, the only “aluminium cars” are ones purchased at a Toy Store.
Anyway, the testimonal results of your Phd studies was not that impressive, to wit:

Citing a recent independent study, he says that of the average 248 lbs. (112 kg) of aluminum in today’s vehicles, less than 5 lbs. (2.3 kg) is related to the body. “We’re very mindful of the gains that aluminum has made in automotive applications, Mr. Martin says. “But we want to be clear that aluminum’s gains in sheet applications have been negligible and that steel sheet continues to be vehicle makers’ material of choice for body structures and closures.”

Source of quote:
Also, I seriously doubt that +-248lbs. is going to make any significant difference in “the environmental benefits of lighter (and therefore more fuel efficient) cars” during their limited lifetime of use.
And ps: During my last 2 years of college I owned a 4-passenger 1951 “Henry J” which averaged 42 mpg …. and the only Al ever in it was pots n’ pans, etc., and possibly a few beer cans.

Reply to  Samuel C. Cogar
November 23, 2015 4:30 am

well… this is kind of a non-argument. If they only use very little aluminium in American cars, then the weight benefit will be small, but at the same time the added coals consumption will also be small, so the question of what wins out relatively isn’t affected.

November 22, 2015 6:50 am

Since Washington State has committed to “renewables” vs hydro and fossil energy Alcoa has decided to shutter two plants in our state. They came here for inexpensive reliable energy and Boeing but politics of energy claims that hydro isn’t renewable got in the way. Can’t be long before we all become dung-burning goatherds.

Reply to  dp
November 22, 2015 9:27 am

I’m always amazed that people get away with calling hydro non-renewable. It is THE definition of renewable IMHO.

Reply to  TRM
November 22, 2015 9:50 am

Here in California hydro was reclassified as non-renewable because it was helping to make the crazy emission standards too attainable.

Paul Westhaver
November 22, 2015 7:03 am

And Aluminum has less than 1/2 the yield strength and much lower Modulus of elasticity, way lower fatigue life and conducts noise better than steel. Meaning you need more of it to do the same job as steel.
Eric is worse than you thought. It is more expensive and more expensive and therefore more energy intensive intensive.:)
The price of the commodity betrays how much coal is needed to make it.
for aluminum
for steel
$1300 per ton Aluminum
$ 210 per ton Steel
incidentally… the economy sucks.

Reply to  Paul Westhaver
November 22, 2015 7:38 am

And thus back to my statement above that this is not market driven. There are reasons why car companies did not use aluminum before cost and safety. They knew that people would not pay more for a car made of aluminum. Only when all car companies were forced to use it were they willing to force their customers to pay more.

Chris Edwards
Reply to  tomwtrevor
November 23, 2015 3:13 pm

Given car manufacturers big and small have used aluminium for bodywork for lightness reasons and BMW and Audi, not to mention Jaguar use it for the whole structure lends credence to the light and strong argument ! Sure maybe you can get exotic steels to be lighter and stronger but if that was better then F1 cars would still
Use it! They use composite and aluminium honeycombs I believe! This all takes the focus off the real point the false idea coal is bad for CO2 reasons!

Juan Slayton
Reply to  Paul Westhaver
November 22, 2015 10:40 am

Eric is worse than you thought.
But I never thought Eric was bad.
: > )

Paul Westhaver
Reply to  Juan Slayton
November 22, 2015 10:41 am

🙂 I saw after posting… and laughed to myself.

Paul Westhaver
Reply to  Eric Worrall
November 22, 2015 1:53 pm

Spell checkers are not meaning checkers. 😉 I am the worlds’ worst welder and competing to be the worst typist as well.

Juan Slayton
Reply to  Eric Worrall
November 22, 2015 4:32 pm

Take comfort from Andrew Jackson. It’s a ** poor mind that can only think of one way to spell a word.

Paul Westhaver
Reply to  Eric Worrall
November 22, 2015 5:45 pm

Whel Waun,
Thanx 4 thee incouragemeant. Eyee wuil taek thet 2 hart.

Steve in SC
November 22, 2015 7:32 am

Just so you know another little tidbit about aluminum. in the electrolysis process to smelt aluminum, the anodes and cathodes in the cells (on the potline) are virtually pure carbon.(calcined petroleum coke). Not only that, one pound of carbon is consumed for each pound of aluminum produced. Guess what that carbon becomes? Thats right CO2!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Paul Westhaver
Reply to  Steve in SC
November 22, 2015 7:53 am

Well…. that is very interesting to know.

Reply to  Paul Westhaver
November 22, 2015 8:55 am

As someone noted above we are producing record numbers of cars and trucks so it’s pretty confusing to me to link aluminum energy cost with coal demand. With gasoline prices in my area falling under $1.70 a gallon SUV and truck sales are through the roof and they will be pumping out tons of CO2 for years and years. They can’t give away small cars and hybrids these days :). And don’t forget that recycling scrap aluminum requires only 5% of the energy used to make new aluminum. For this reason, approximately 31% of all aluminum produced in the United States comes from recycled scrap. It’s almost as good for steel. As of 2008, more than 83% of steel was recycled in the United States which uses 75% less energy than smelting virgin iron ore.
Source Wikipedia & EPA fact sheet.

Paul Westhaver
Reply to  Paul Westhaver
November 22, 2015 10:05 am

Yup.. Steel is definitely underrated. I have used steel alloys with 200 ksi yield stress. Elgiloy makes it.
Aluminum, say 6061, yields at 18 ksi.
Although steels are 3 X more dense than aluminums, Steels can be made 10 X stronger with better fatigue properties.
And steel is wayyyyyyyyyyy cheaper. If your are buying strength, Aluminum costs up to 15X more.
Steel wins hands down. What is this obsession with aluminum? And lets not even get into Titanium.

The Original Mike M
November 22, 2015 7:32 am

Sounds like a red herring to me. The key cost comparison should include recycling not just production from ore.
Another thing woefully absent in the discussion is the increasing use of plastic which is currently a greater factor in reducing vehicle weight than aluminum.

Reply to  The Original Mike M
November 22, 2015 7:50 am

Of course plastic is made without using any CO2 at all.

Global cooling
November 22, 2015 8:15 am

EPA and other environment regulators are the problem, not the car industry. Let the markets to drive the decisions instead of bureaucrats.

November 22, 2015 8:27 am

You have your figures in a muddle I think Mr Woralll but the 20% increase is about right as you say.

November 22, 2015 9:48 am

If you ever hear anyone say ‘Public policy X will cause result Y, It’s simple arithmetic!’ be warned you are either dealing with a stupid person or one who thinks you are. Reality,be it economies or climates are multi-variable calculus at best and may be chaotic.

Reply to  Joel Sprenger
November 22, 2015 6:14 pm

Why have the industrial unions gone along with the green agenda when this has cost so many manufacturing jobs?
How much of a factor in this situation is due to the BlueGreen movement?

Reply to  Barbara
November 23, 2015 6:50 am

Unions don’t care about workers. They care about making those that run the unions rich.

November 22, 2015 9:58 am

and alcoa closing last 2 plants here meaning all aluminum will have to come from china

Reply to  dmacleo
November 22, 2015 9:59 am

that should say closing 2 and idling 3 leaving 1 operating in USA

Smart Rock
Reply to  dmacleo
November 22, 2015 1:06 pm

Then it will join the 55 percent of steel that’s imported into the USA (28/55 million tons first 8 months of 2015).
Steel mills have closed or are closing all over US and Canada too, that’s apparently caused by price competition, but carbon taxes will just make it worse for domestic producers. You can look forward to all your steel being imported in the foreseeable future.

Paul Westhaver
November 22, 2015 10:40 am

Here is a great presentation regarding the use of High Strength Steels in the Auto Industry, highlighting the conflict between weight reduction and safety in collisions.

November 22, 2015 11:06 am

They do not give a damn if people die, as long as their propaganda is pursued. They never think ANYTHING through to it’s inevitable outcome as they create more mess and havoc while never fixing anything at all. Still the delusional dreamers, whom have caused more misery, death and destruction to the population and planet than all the wars put together..

Rudolf Hucker
November 22, 2015 11:54 am

If only Polititians could match the improvements in effiency made by motor manufacturers in the last few years,we could all be paying much less tax. Sadly, many of them are incapable of running
a free evening in a brewery, the reason my friends is they have never run anything which involved using their own money!!!

November 22, 2015 12:56 pm

It takes a lot of energy to produce primary aluminum from raw materials, but aluminum is one of the most recycled, and recyclable, materials around.
And, recycling aluminum uses only about 5% of the energy required to create aluminum from raw materials
In Europe, 95 % of the aluminium scrap from cars is currently being recycled.
So, I am not sure that steel is better for the environment than aluminum when all factors are counted in.

Paul Westhaver
Reply to  Jan Kjetil Andersen
November 22, 2015 1:49 pm

Recyclingness is a nice smoke and mirrors greeny word that make one all irrational and happy.
1) The production of aluminum right now does not include the use in transportation vehicles like trucks, trains, cars. If it did, there would be 20X more aluminum mines.
2) ~85% of the steel produced is also recycled. That would be the case for high strength steels as well, which as I noted above, would make cars lighter cheaper and stronger than Aluminum.
3) The red herring of the greens, ie “fuel consumption” is driving regulators to reduce the weight in a vehicle NOT because of the fabrication energy required, but for the long term fuel use considerations. In which case FRPs plastics and High strength steels out perform aluminum but several factors.
Recycle-ability of the automobile frame is nearly an irrelevant factor when all factors are counted.
Aluminum Yield stress = 18 ksi
HSS yield stress = +200 ksi
SG Al = 2.7
SG Steel =8.0
Strength to weight Al 18/2.7= 6.7
Strength to weight of HS Steels 200/8= 25
High Strength Steel is 3.7 X better than Al
Then there is the issue of collision safety. The Fed dictate collision performance.
Aluminum is cr@p when it come to collisions.

Reply to  Paul Westhaver
November 22, 2015 10:13 pm

Strength to weight Al 18/2.7= 6.7
Strength to weight of HS Steels 200/8= 25
High Strength Steel is 3.7 X better than Al

Well, but then the stringent vehicle emission standards should be driving the car industry to replace aluminum by steel, not the other way around.
Moreover, why are not airplanes made of steel if it has so much better strength to weight ratio?
There are obviously more to this than the strength to weight ratio you have found.

Paul Westhaver
Reply to  Paul Westhaver
November 22, 2015 11:03 pm

Yes there is more to this.
Back in the day when lotsa aircraft needed to be built in a hurry, ergo the hoover dam and the west coast aluminum industry…for wars…steel was ordinary. Some of the aircraft components are still steel notwithstanding weight due to strength needs, ie landing gear. Anything that suffers fatigue and high stress cannot be aluminum. Steel is used in those components still.
Nowadays, 75 years later we have FRP carbon fiber pressure hulls for Airbus A320s etc and the A380. No aluminum, no steel. Also nowadays we have new high strength low alloy steels which are extremely tough and strong. Like I said much stronger than aluminum per kg.
Again safety is also a fed regulated aspect of automobiles. Collision protection requires extremely high strength passenger compartment.
Aluminum is used in aircraft because it is available and is a known and well studied material. Habit.
Now that specialty steels are available, they will be used, as I had done in a semiconductor processing application in 1995. Hydro forming car frames can be done with 1020 to 1080 steels but not Al 6061. It cracks. It is just a mater of time when the automakers see a cost benefit for retooling their production lines for thinner stronger materials.
Structural considerations like area moment of inertia which is Modulus of elasticity dependent also becomes a consideration.
All that being said, you said, “stringent vehicle emission standards should be driving the car industry…” Well that’s the rub isn’t it. YOU believe that government can legislate a cooler planet and a sunny day. It can’t. Look at the collision standards vs the weight standards. They are in polar conflict.
Emissions like NOx and SOx and soot are under control. Now CO2 is under the “emissions” umbrella. Since CO2 is plant food, the EPA etc have no right to regulate CO2. Therefore vehicle weight is a matter of economy only.
Aluminum is a buzz word. Fake technology. A shiny thing to grab ones attention. Sexy.
Ford reduced the weight of its 7300 lb F250 by using aluminum but had to increase its thickness to make it “sound better” (lower modulus of aluminum problem) Ford make the fenders out of aluminum. They should have made them out of plastic or FRP but truck enthusiasts would not be happy… marketing.
Serious engineers use concrete and steel and carbon/glass fiber composites.
What are suspension bridge cables made from? The Burj Dubai?

Paul Westhaver
Reply to  Paul Westhaver
November 22, 2015 11:24 pm

Also… Why are ships (cargo and oil and container) NOT made of Aluminum?
1) Salt water Corrosion
2) Cost
3) Fire risk.
Cars on coastal locations would rot and fall apart due to aggressive interaction of NaCl and Al at weld sites.
I have already replaced my COATED aluminum wheels 2 times since 2006.
Airplanes don’t suffer as much salt exposure since they are glycol washed in winter and operate at 20-35,00 feet.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Paul Westhaver
November 23, 2015 12:12 am

“Paul Westhaver
November 22, 2015 at 11:24 pm
Also… Why are ships (cargo and oil and container) NOT made of Aluminum?”
HMS Sheffield.

November 22, 2015 1:25 pm

Greenies and Warmistas cannot see beyond the end of their nose. They cannot connect the dots and see, amongst many other unexpected consequences, that making aluminum takes electricity, that iron is made with coal, and closing coal facilities would increase all prices greatly.

November 22, 2015 8:13 pm

Handy reference guide to environmental organizations
Start Guide: Environmental organizations sub-grouped into 8 categories.
8.2, Environmental Groups Focused On Climate Change
US Climate Action Network
Climate Crisis Coalition
The Climate Reality Project

Leo Smith
November 22, 2015 9:24 pm

The Big Lie consists in finding the most outrageous opposite of the truth, and proclaiming it with a straight face.
“I am a liberal, so do what I say!”

November 22, 2015 10:04 pm

When I read through the article I thought that the quoted 400 GWh of annual electric energy usage for total world production aluminium had to be somewhat in error so I went to the World Aluminium page that is the source of bottom figure in the article , and dug a little deeper into energy use statistics for aluminium found there, sure enough the 400 GWh number shoud have been written as 400 TWh (400000 GWh ) , and furthermore 400TW hours is only the part of the total use of electricity that is generated by coal plants worldwide to produce primary aluminium ( i.e. new and therefore does not include recyled ber cans etc ). With that out of the way here are some facts that I garnered from the data om the World Aluminium web site:
Total world production of primary aluminium estimate :
in 2014 was 53.12 million tons and 47.78 million tons in 2012, i.e. +5.34 million ton in 2 years.
the energy used for production was:
in 2014 690 TWh, 400 TWh from coal, 68 TWh from gas&oil and 222 TWh from Hydro$Nukes.
in 2012 601 TWh, 319 TWh from coal, 46 TWh from gas&oil and 236 TWh from Hydro$Nukes.
So total increace in energy use in two years time was 89 TWh , and there were some notable
changes in composition of the energy mix, the coal share rose from 53% of the total to 58% , gas&oil share increase rose from 7.7% to 9.9% and Nuclear%Hydro fell from 39.3% down to
32.2%, ( and note the birdblenders and friers share stod still at 0% for both years/sarc).
All in all there is a well discernible trend of a movement of aluminium smelting activity away from the energy sectors that have the least CO2 emission intensity, i.e Hydro & Nuclear to the more CO2 eimission-intense fossil fuel sector and even there the coal growth outdoes the natural gas by a ratio 2.5:1. Definitively not the what you would want if you reduced CO2 emissions are the goal.
But , I lingered a little longer over the production and energy use number of the sector, and could not help noticing few other things that are pertinent to this subject.
One was that f.x that China that in 2014 is estimated to have produced little over 50% of the total world production of primary alumininum (27.5 vs. 53 million tons) also had an increase of 5.36 million tons production from 2012 to 2014 nearly an exact equal of the world production total increase. This one fact also very likely explains th increased share fossil fuel powered production over the same period as its production of the 27.5 million tons were produced with 374.1 TWh of electricity and of that only 37.4 TWh or 10% came from hydroelectic power stations, and the other 90% solely from coal plants.
Another little trivia from this excursion of mine was that Europe ( Russia included as far as I can tell ) who is still a player in this game, albeit a minor one with 13.8% of the world share of the production, has radicllay different power mix in 2014 84% of the electricity used by the aluminium smelters there came from Hydroelectricity , another 7% from Nuclear and only 6% from fossil-fuelled powerplants, comparable numbers for the total world energy use in alumium production were in 2014 : 31% from Hydro , 1% from Nuclear, and 58% from Coal, and 10% from gas&oil.
And hile the total energy increace of 89 TWh used for primary aluminium production , in Europe that number went down by 10.5 TWh (123.8TWh 2012 to 113.3 TWh in 2014,and tonnage produced fell 567 thousand tons, from 7.93 to 7.36 million tons ), while China’s increased production stood in for 84.2 TWh increase in energy use in their production.
Finally one more thing I took away , if you divide energy used by the tonnage produced you get the energy intensity for the production in f.x KWh/kg or MWh/ton etc , I did so with the World numbers and also the Europa data and got an 12.99 KWh/Kg produced for the world average, and 15.39 KWh/Kg produced in Europa , the smelters in europe are 15% less efficient than the world on the average it seems , a bit strange in a region that hold’s the championship title in exorbitant electricity price.

Reply to  Björn
November 23, 2015 2:56 am

Interesting analysis. “Europe… has radicllay different power mix in 2014 84% of the electricity used by the aluminium smelters there came from Hydroelectricity” probably explains “12.99 KWh/Kg produced for the world average, and 15.39 KWh/Kg produced in Europa , the smelters in europe are 15% less efficient than the world on the average it seems , a bit strange in a region that hold’s the championship title in exorbitant electricity price.”
I suggest that the electricity price for the smelters is not so high as it is mostly HE.

November 22, 2015 11:23 pm

News flash: The best-selling vehicle in the USA, Ford F-150 pickup truck, has gone to an aluminum body for the last two years. 700 lbs lighter, better fuel economy, everyone loves them. This probably accounts for virtually 100% of the increase in automotive aluminum.
6061 is Aluminum El-Cheapo, the 7000 alloys have strength over 30,000 psi…

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Michael Moon
November 22, 2015 11:56 pm

The only issue with alloy bodies on trucks like the F-150, which is fitted to a steel ladder frame chassis, is corrosion of dissimilar metals. Probably not an issue in the US where salt is not (I think) used on roads in winter, like the UK. Landrovers were notorious for this.

Paul Westhaver
Reply to  Patrick MJD
November 23, 2015 7:22 am

Patrick Yes.
I have a spool of magnesium alloy 1mm thick and 3″ wide. I bolt it to my under carriage and it corrodes instead of my steel car. The hydrogen half cells of iron and aluminum and in my case magnesium are relevant.
Steel is noble, relative to aluminum.
Aluminum is sacrificial. The first things to go are connection sites. All marine engineers know that sacrificial zinc anodes are placed on steel hull vessels to protect the hulls for rust.
Also “crevice corrostion” is a problem. Small batteries using salt water as electrolyte manifest at junctions between stainless, or iron or copper and aluminum. zinc and magnesium.

Paul Westhaver
Reply to  Michael Moon
November 23, 2015 7:32 am

6061 can’t be formed. It cracks. this is 75 year old knowledge. 6061 is 6X more expensive than steel and 1/2 as strong.
Ford is using them as a marketing scheme. Otherwise they would have done it 50 years ago. And no not everybody loves them.

Patrick MJD
November 23, 2015 12:09 am

“Paul Westhaver
November 22, 2015 at 11:03 pm
It is just a mater of time when the automakers see a cost benefit for retooling their production lines for thinner stronger materials.”
I worked for Honda in the UK. Apart from structural steel used in the frame, the body panels were made thinner by 0.1mm, same steel, just thinner. They were stronger too…because they were *formed* differently.

November 23, 2015 7:20 am

I drive a Volkswagen but it isn’t a diesel its gasoline driven, or petrol as we British call it.
Personally I don’t care one little bit whether Volkswagen cheated the emissions tests or not, who cares anyway? It makes no difference in the great scheme of things, except to silly greenies.

Paul Westhaver
Reply to  ANH
November 23, 2015 7:23 am

And …all car makers game the test.

November 23, 2015 9:04 am

Now for some calculations as to whether replacing steel with aluminum causes an increase or decrease in energy consumption: The above chart indicates about 590,000 GWH of electricity was consumed in 2014 to produce 53.127 million metric tons of aluminum. This works out to 11.1 KWH per pound of aluminum. Assuming a combined generation, transmission and distribution efficiency of 35% for coal-generated electricity used by aluminum smelters and 100% of the increase of electricity demand for aluminum is satisfied by coal, each extra pound of aluminum requires 31.7 KWH of chemical energy from coal.
Let’s assume a car has its weight reduced by 400 pounds to reduce its curb weight by 10%, by using 400 pounds of aluminum in place of 800 pounds of steel. (I don’t actually know if a 1:2 ratio is typical or common.) Let’s assume that a car of this weight has its fuel economy increased from 28 to 29 MPG by this weight reduction. (Perhaps city MPG increased from 23 to 25, highway MPG unchanged at 33.) This is hypothetical, but I estimate these are reasonable numbers.
The 400 pounds of aluminum in the above hypothetical car requires 12,680 KWH to produce. Increasing overall MPG from 28 to 29 in a car that lasts 200,000 miles results in 185 gallons of gasoline saved. A gallon of gasoline has 36.6 KWH, so 246 gallons saved means 9,015 KWH of chemical energy saved. Uh-oh, it looks like adding aluminum to cars might not pay off unless the car lasts about 280,000 miles or aluminum saves gasoline more than I estimate or electricity for aluminum production is produced and delivered more efficiently than I estimate.

Reply to  Donald L. Klipstein
November 23, 2015 9:06 am

I just realized that the aluminum gets more miles for energy savings if it gets recycled for use in a car again, or if the car is made with recycled aluminum.

Paul Westhaver
Reply to  Donald L. Klipstein
November 23, 2015 10:09 am

Why is it that smelting steel uses electricity generated by coal, and electric cars get electricity to charge their enormous batteries from windmills and unicorn farts?
Electric cars are coal powered.

Paul Westhaver
Reply to  Donald L. Klipstein
November 23, 2015 10:47 am

Nice calcs.

Reply to  Donald L. Klipstein
November 23, 2015 1:04 pm

Suggest you redo calculation , using and correct units in figures from the given source . Electricity usage was 690,000 GWh for the production of 53.127 metric tons of aluminium. It comes out as 12.99 KWh/Kg aluminium or ~ 5.9 KWh per pound aluminium, not 11.1

Robert S
November 23, 2015 10:18 am

Rio Tinto stopped smelting aluminium in the UK some years ago because of the high cost of power required for the Alcan cell. Steel plants are also closing down because of high power costs largely as a result of the Climate Change Act introduced by the Labour government in 2008; this bill is also responsible for closing coal fired power stations forcing up power costs making UK manufacturing uncompetitive. Lefty environmentalists and warmists favour the use of electric cars little knowing that petrol driven internal combustion engines are more efficient producing lower overall emissions than power generators using fossil fuels.

November 23, 2015 10:31 am

Unfortunately, because of our traitor-in-chief’s war on coal, prb’ly none of the increased aluminum production is occurring in the US — maybe just across the borders into Canada and Mexico, or more likely, overseas. And people wonder why there is such a large & increasing trade imbalance for the US….

Robert S
November 23, 2015 10:55 am

Alcoa in the US is a much larger producer of aluminium than Alcan in Canada.

Bob Maginnis
November 23, 2015 3:41 pm

This liberal knows that using aluminum in cars/trucks has an EROEI (energy returned on energy invested) that will pay off in a dozen years, and that when the truck is scrapped, the aluminum can be recycled to make more efficient vehicles and save far more energy than was required to reduce the alumina into aluminum. It is ‘foolish’ to waste fuel.

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