The Aluminium Federation (ALFED) hosted an Automotive Forum on Wednesday, 6th July. The ‘Automotive industry meets the aluminium industry’ style forum hosted speakers ranging from OEMs, welders to extrusion specialists.

Speaking first was Michael Horan (right), Chair of ALFED Automotive Forum and Chief Executive Officer Sherwood Stainless & Aluminium. He provided an overview on the current automotive industry in the UK stating: “The UK has a deep and complex infrastructure for the automotive industry.” He went on to list the challenges the industry faces:

  • Post Brexit
  • Post COVID
  • Russian/Ukraine conflict
  • China trade tariffs and tax
  • Globalisation and localisation
  • Technology differentiation

ALFED also announced their new ‘ALFED Automotive Group’. The group aims to lead the aluminium industry in innovation, sustainability, and customer value.

Speaking next was Alan Banks (left), Lightweight Structures Supervisor, Ford Motor Company. He spoke on light-weighting and sustainable vehicles, as well as zero- emission vehicles. Mr Banks explained that zero emissions vehicles not only means electric, but that hydrogen must also be considered. Discussing the competition that UK aluminium faces from China, he went on to state that “if UK low emission aluminium doesn’t come at a reasonable price, and is not as cheap as China, we and other OEMs will buy from China… this is where we need government intervention to ensure that sustainability is prioritised.” He also stated: “The key point is that by government intervention, we can’t just mean funding. As the industry, we need to look from within to fund all of our infrastructure. Government intervention needs to come via incentives in CO2 saving, levelling embedded CO2 from imported material, supporting businesses who want to invest. Only by working with our government colleagues will we ever move the opportunities to Fruition.”

Adrian Tautscher, Principal Technical Specialist, speaking on behalf of Impressions Technologies, discussed the new HFQ technology. This comes after the recent HFQ technology partner workshop. Discussions after the presentation turned towards scrapping vehicles and recycled content.

Mark White, Technical Director, Alumobility, continued the conversation of aluminium in sustainable vehicles in his presentation. He demonstrated the benefits of aluminium replacing steel in the body of vehicles, and the challenges of maintaining their strength whilst simultaneously reducing their weight.

After a networking break, Alexis Skubich, Innovation and Technology Director – Extrusion Europe, from Hydro spoke on Extrusion development in aluminium. The developmental process aimed to determine which material properties are key, a materials reaction to load casing and what properties mater when an example fails, as well as others. He stated that Hydro aims to “not wait for OEMs to demand a new material standard but aim to make materials which anticipate their demands and that are better than what they want.”

Following on, Prof Geoff Scamans (right, stood next to Jan Lukaszewski, Technical Manager at The Aluminium Federation ALFED), Chief Scientific Officer, Innoval Technology – Alloy Developments stated, in his presentation, “there are a lot of challenges for the aluminium industry, but there are huge opportunities for the UK to utilise scrap and put it back into the industry…”

Speaking next was Antonio Pagliuca, Senior Specialist, 3M, who discussed ‘Structural Bonding and Joining of Aluminium in Automotives’. He announced that several new products are due to be released this year. Mr Pagliofca was followed by Stephan Drag, Head of UK Automotive Division, European Metal Recycling (EMR), who spoke on recycling steel and aluminium.

The penultimate presentation was help by Sullivan Smith, Principal Project Leader, Laser and Sheet Processes, The Welding Institute, who discussed welding techniques and challenges such as spot welding aluminium and methods of avoiding the issues with it.

Closing the Forum was Owain Mortimer, Technology and Innovation Manager at Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), who concluded the day’s presentations by summarising the automotive industry.

It is apparent that the automotive industry is in demand of aluminium, and that this is a privilege for the aluminium industry. This demand is a chance for the sector to show how aluminium in automotives can and will be the sustainable future.