QING Gong, in China’s legend of martial arts, refers to a set of light body skills that enable people to defy the force of gravity and fly.
It’s not surprising, perhaps, that the term has been appropriated by Jaguar to describe its industry-first aluminum body structure, a technology that cuts weight while maintaining rigidity in the carmaker’s energy-saving vehicles. The technology was first developed for use in aerodynamics.
Jaguar Land Rover’s joint-venture plant with Chery in Changshu, Jiangsu Province, recently opened the first body shop in China dedicated to aluminum cars. It creates a cornerstone for Jaguar’s first localized offering in China: the long wheelbase XF sports sedan now on display at the Beijing Auto Show. The car is scheduled to hit the market in the second half of this year.
Up to 75 percent of the car’s body is made from aluminum alloy. That makes the structure 28 percent stronger than a steel-frame. The alloy’s density is only one-third that of steel alloy, which takes huge pressure off the engine in the driving force.
At fully automated lines dominated by 335 robots, lightweight aluminum alloy panels, castings, and intrusions are being churned out and assembled without the flying sparks of steel welding.
Up to 2,754 self-piercing rivets, together with adhesive, are used in a cold connection technology for the car. Aluminum is lighter, stiffer and also prone to withstand high temperatures.
Still, aluminum cars, like ancient martial arts masters, have their Achilles heels. When bent, an aluminum panel cannot easily be pulled out and straightened like steel. It may require replacement and higher cost than usual repairs.
In fact, aluminum itself is much expensive than steel. At this stage of Jaguar’s local production, all rivets, which differ in form and function, are imported. The assembly process also costs more than traditional welding.
Even with its head in the clouds, Jaguar may still be able to keep the pedal to the ground as it aims to take on the less price-sensitive luxury sedan segment with its qing gong model. But at the end of the day, no technical application can defy market forces