Kate Hickey, WorldAutoSteel

(WorldAutoSteel is the automotive group of the World Steel Association

17 September 2019

The trend toward connected, self-driving, shared and electric vehicles is quickly moving from concepts to commercial viability.

Self-driving vehicles will introduce a new kind of freedom both for the driver and its occupants. Vehicles will no longer be designed around the driver but designed to serve the needs and comfort of the occupants.

With the rise of mobility services such as Uber, Didi, and a host of others, it will become more and more appealing to subscribe to a monthly ride share service for all transportation needs instead of owning a vehicle.

Steel-intensive electric Byton revealed at Frankfurt Motor Show 2019

In this new interconnected world, will steel still be the material of choice? To answer this question let’s take a moment to look at why steel should gain favour with car owners, manufacturers and designers.

1. Durability and cost advantage

Fleet owners who provide ride sharing services will need to manage the total cost of ownership. To be profitable, they will want durable, lasting vehicles that are affordable to own. Steel is cost effective and lasts a long time.

2. Environmental advantage

In a world where climate change is in the forefront of people’s concerns, autonomous vehicles will meet the highest environmental requirements. Steel is the only material that is fully recyclable and that has the best environmental performance over its entire life cycle compared to aluminium and carbon fibre.

3. Safety protection

Because it will take some time before all vehicles on the road are fully connected, the need for passive safety will remain for the foreseeable future. Steel will still be needed to provide the unique properties of both crash energy absorption and deflection. Battery housings made from steel will provide structural integrity for crash management, while also preventing battery pack damage and leakage.

4. Flexibility of design

Steel’s design flexibility and unique formability help designers use their creativity to the full. With the removal of the steering wheel, foot pedals and conventional dashboard, designers will have more space to use their creativity.

Steel can provide the needed strength while keeping the material thin, which leads to more room in the passenger cabin for new seating arrangements. Steel will manage the loads associated with passengers in multiple and diverse seating configurations.

5. Lightweighting

Lightweighting will continue to be important to balance smaller battery sizes with maximum range. The steel industry has been and will continue to develop products, such as the ever-growing family of Advanced High-Strength Steels (AHSS), to meet both the mass reduction and the safety targets, affordably.

Today the strength of steel in a vehicle’s body structure can reach 1,700 MegaPascals. This is over 9 times stronger than 50 years ago.

6. Electrical steels

Electrical steels are essential material in the construction of generators and motors for electric vehicles. In fact, there would no electric mobility without steel. Learn more from two of our member companies ArcelorMittal and thyssenkrupp.

For all these reasons, we’re confident that steel will be central to this revolutionary change due to its durability, strength and environmental advantages.

I look forward to your comments.