Japanese company Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal has developed a super automotive steel that’s 25 percent stronger than the toughest high-tensile steel now on the market. It is also up to 30 percent lighter than what’s currently being used by carmakers.
The company said the super steel can help manufacturers build more fuel-efficient, safer vehicles. Nippon Steel is conducting verification tests and will start marketing the product around 2020 for use in vehicle frames, chassis, and other components.
The highest grade of cold-rolled steel offered by major steelmakers has a strength of 1,180 megapascals. Nippon Steel’s new, lighter material has a strength of 1,470 megapascals.
Engineers from Nippon Steel improved the heat treatment process and adding alloy elements, which in turn improved both strength and ease of rolling. The material is resistant to cracks from the stamping process.
In terms of pricing, the company plans to keep the price low even with the current top-of-the-line offerings.
The material is not as light as aluminum alloy or plastic reinforced with carbon fiber. But its price is only a third to half that of aluminum — with processing costs factored in — and about 1/20 that of carbon-fiber plastic.
Nippon Steel’s new product could help automakers who are scrambling to meet increasingly tight fuel-economy regulations worldwide by using lighter materials in vehicles.