Automotive OEMs don’t have to refrain from using steel in order to achieve weight reductions. On Wednesday, the Steel Market Development Institute Automotive Applications Council in Southfield unveiled study results showing a steel twist beam in a “U-Beam” design achieves a 30 percent reduction in weight.
“(The twist beam) is the rear suspension of the vehicle and it is becoming more popular in the smaller vehicles we see,” says David Anderson, senior director of the institute’s automotive technical program. “As that segment grows, we’ll see more twist beams to help with the ride and handling of the vehicle. It’s very important for the study that we maintain all of the performance requirements of the twist beam itself while achieving the weight reduction.”
Anderson says an innovative design led to the reduction. The “U-Beam” — based on a tubular shape using advanced steels — uses hot stamping and allows for the elimination of a couple of parts while better distributing the loads for improved performance, he says.
The reduction comes with a 15 percent cost increase, which is less than the cost of similar weight savings from materials like aluminum. Automakers producing vehicles for sale in the U.S. market must reduce weights by 2025 to meet stronger regulatory standards on fuel efficiency required by the Obama Administration.
“With fuel economy regulations increasing rapidly, automakers are looking for every way they can to take weight out of vehicles,” says Ronald Krupitzer, vice president of automotive market at SMDI. “The lightweight steel twist beam project is a great example of how currently available advanced steel technologies enable aggressive weight savings in the vehicle’s suspension, thus enabling better fuel economy for the automaker and the consumer.”