Foundry Corporate News Topic Low-pressure diecasting

How cars lose weight: Light-metal chassis components

Honsel reduce cost and consumption

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At this year's IAA, lightweight construction is one of the hot topics. Through their low weight, light-metal components help to reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions of vehicles. This also helps to avoid the projected high penalty taxes or at least cut them significantly. Together with its customers, Honsel has developed extremely light structural components of aluminium and magnesium for integration in the car body or chassis as axle or integral support elements. In the electric cars of the future, lightweight construction plays a particularly important role because the battery makes up so much of the vehicle weight.

As a cooperating partner of EDAG, Honsel is participating in the electrically powered prototype "Light Car – Open Source". Honsel is closely involved with other suppliers in the development project set up by this leading engineering service provider. At the EDAG booth in hall 4, B24 Honsel is showing some of the lightweight solutions used in the project.

The weight-saving structural elements of light metal have been developed by Honsel especially for use in the chassis. They are incorporated in the sub-structure to replace conventional heavy steel parts, e.g. as engine supports or axle-suspension elements. Special design and production processes geared to the material characteristics of light metal ensure that the strength of these components is very high. For example, Honsel's rearaxle support in the Volvo V 70 4WD saves about one third of the original weight, and weighs only 23.5 kg. And as a structural component, the Peugeot 407 engine support is a real featherweight at only 15.5 kg. The change to lightweight technology is also interesting from an economic point of view. Support structures made of steel have to be assembled from several different parts. This costs money, not to mention the expensive anti-corrosion treatment of the surface. Light-metal engine and axle supports on the other hand can be produced more economically as single castings. They only need machining at the junction and control points. Currently, Honsel is developing advanced chassis components which can assume vital impact-absorbing functions in the vehicle crush zone.  To make this possible, Honsel's engineers are optimising the deformation behaviour of the structures concerned. For example, they are working on highly ductile castings which show excellent plastic deformation in crash tests. In addition, they are also creating structural parts consisting of cast elements and extrusions which collapse easily under crash conditions, thereby absorbing much of the energy of the impact. Not only axle supports, but the wheel suspension itself offers considerable potential for making cars lighter and improving dynamic characteristics.

 For example, the light-metal rear-axle supports in the MINI reduce its weight by 5 kg which would otherwise act on the axle. And in BMW’s 1 and 3 Series, Honsel's aluminium front-axle swivel bearings not only cut down on the pounds, but also reduced the unsprung mass of the axle, thereby contributing to driving comfort. In the car body area, Honsel's light-metal spaceframe structures also cut weights significantly. A spaceframe is a lattice of hollow aluminium extrusions joined at its nodes by castings. The sheets forming the bodywork are then mounted on the frame. Spaceframe bodies are at least 40 per cent lighter than standard ones constructed of steel sheeting. At the same time they stiffen the structure of the vehicle, thus improving its passive safety in crash situations. Honsel has now developed the extrusions used in spaceframe structures to a point where their already low weight can be reduced by a further 17 per cent.

Light-metal components from Honsel, such as engine and transmission housings, can be found in vehicles of all classes and sizes, from the city model to the sports car, from the light commercial vehicle to the heavy truck. The trend towards lightweight construction now continues in the chassis and car body areas. Experts predict that, in the medium term, 50 per cent more light-metal parts will be used in chassis and structure than is now the case. Studies have shown that a reduction in weight of 100 kg in a medium-sized car can diminish its CO2 production by about 25 g per km.

Yet lightweight components are not only ecologically reasonable as they help to preserve natural resources. Once more they make economic sense in view of the planned penalty taxes for cars with high fuel consumption and CO2 emission. Light-metal solutions are also in demand for the electric cars of the future. In order to compensate the additional weight of the batteries, the cars have to become much lighter. The lower the vehicle weight, the less energy has to be stored in the battery to allow it to achieve its range. The battery itself can be smaller and cheaper for a light vehicle than for a heavier one. Just how much potential lightweight construction has for electric vehicles, is demonstrated by Honsel as a development partner of EDAG in the project "Light Car – Open Source". Here, aluminium components supplied by Honsel cut down the weight of the electric vehicle and allow a five-seater to achieve a respectable radius of 150 km, making it suitable for everyday use.

About Honsel

Honsel is one of the world's leading producers of light-metal components with primary focus on the automotive industry. The company develops and manufactures aluminium and magnesium products using the casting, extruding and rolling processes for engine, transmission, suspension and car body of passenger cars and commercial vehicles. Additionally, the company supplies products for engineering and other applications.

Components and solutions from Honsel reduce vehicle weights, fuel consumption and emissions, thus contributing to environmental protection. Founded in 1908, Honsel has become a development partner and systems supplier for the worldwide automotive industry and has facilities in Germany, France, Spain, Brazil and Mexico. More than 4.000 employees achieved a total turnover of over 700 million Euros.


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