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Steel use for automaking, 2010–2050

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The shift from steel to carbon fiber in the transportation sector reduces steel use and hence production. With the rapid adoption of ultralight vehicles, RMI estimates that, in 2050, the auto industry will require one-fifth the steel it used in 2010. We assume that lightweight vehicles are 10% steel by mass, down from 55% by mass in conventional vehicles, and that advance-composite adoption is completed in 2035. Automotive steel is already highly recycled, and our analysis conservatively assumes no recycling of carbon fiber (largely because it doesn’t rust or fatigue—not because, as is often erroneously assumed, its recycling is impractical or uneconomic).

Sources

RMI analysis based on:

A. U.S. Energy Information Administration. 2010. "Annual Energy Outlook 2010 Iron and Steel Industries Energy Consumption, Reference Case." May 11. link

B. U.S. Geological Survey. 2005. "Iron and Steel Product End-Use Statistics." September 1. link

C. Autodata Corp. 2011. "Total U.S. Light Vehicle Retail Sales". link

D. World Steel Association. “About automotive steels.” World Steel Association. link

E. Lovins, Amory, Michael Brylawski, David Cramer, and Timothy Moore. 2005.Hypercars: Materials, Manufacturing, and Policy Implications. Rocky Mountain Institute. link