Manufacturers in the transportation industry are always looking for ways to reduce vehicle weight, minimize fuel consumption and reduce exhaust emissions, so they continue to look at the use of aluminum alloys to help achieve these objectives. For example, reducing motor vehicle weight by 10% translates to a 5.5% decrease in fuel consumption and every two pounds in weight loss lowers CO2 emissions by 44 lb for a vehicle driven 105,000 miles. These kinds of benefits have R&D activities focusing on improving the properties of aluminum alloys and reducing processing costs to increase aluminum use in vehicles.
Heat treatable aluminum alloys gain strength by solution heat treating, quenching, and aging. The process is simple in concept, but process variations required to achieve final properties has made heat treating a professional specialty. Research is aimed at minimizing such specialization.