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High-Strength Steel Ups Cars’ Fuel Efficiency

Updated: Oct 14, 2020

A “third-generation” steel being developed at an American university could revolutionize the automobile industry with its offering of mechanical properties that make this steel more advanced than any that has come before.

Researchers say that this “third-generation advanced high-strength steel” means auto manufacturers can produce fuel-efficient vehicles that’ll help them meet looming energy-efficiency requirements.

Conventionally, cars and trucks are manufactured using “first-generation steel,” a popular and affordable variant that’s heavier and not as strong as the two generations that followed.

Among the most pressing requirements of steel called into service in automobile manufacture today is that it be lightweight and strong so that the car can be fuel-efficient. Under the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Corporate Average Fuel Economy regulations, auto manufacturers must improve their vehicles’ fuel efficiency every year through to 2020. And as much as increasingly sophisticated exhaust-treatment systems, improved aerodynamics, and more efficient transmissions make a car easier on fuel, reducing the vehicle’s weight is key to seeing the goal through.

Enter third-generation steel.

Under the auspices of a committee of representatives from four steel manufacturers, and developed at the Missouri University of Science and Technology’s Kent D. Peaslee Steel Manufacturing Research Centre in Rolla, MO, this latest kick at the can is the lightest, strongest, and easiest to manipulate of them all. And, critically, it doesn’t sacrifice safety.

“We’re currently refining the steel design to achieve ‘Gen 3’ mechanical property goals while also maintaining manufacturability,” the centre’s director Ronald O’Malley said in a university statement.

“This is one of the most promising generation-three steels I have seen.”

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