Revolutions in the automotive and foundry sectors - motorization, components weight reduction, shared mobility and connectivity

Foundry on Wheels 2017, October 19th 2017, Part 1

Foundry on Wheels (FoW), the world's first automotive and foundry joined meeting, took place in October 19 and 20, began by exploring the alignment of automotive and foundry strategies to anticipate R&D solutions.

For that matter, six experts were joined to share their opinion on the main trends of innovation for the future, as well as on the possibilities of collaboration between the players from both sectors. Robert Dover, SinterCast Board Member and former CEO of Jaguar Land Rover, former CEO of Aston Martin and former Vice President of Ford Motor Company; Helena Silva, General Manager CEiiA and Manuel Rui Vieira, Marketing Manager of Galp Portugal were invited speakers. The discussion panel brought together Bernardo Macedo, Chairman of Sonafi; Hugo Ribeiro da Silva, Director of Porsche Porto and Braga; Nuno Magalhães, CEO of Juno Racing Cars and again Manuel Rui Vieira.

In short terms, this first session of the congress has made it clear that a number of revolutions are under way in the automotive industry, and that OEMs are positioning themselves to provide users with what they will need, even though such needs are difficult to predict and is not clear which technology will be implemented. This forces the entire value chain, OEMs and suppliers, to be very observant to market signals and to have flexible and fast innovation models in place to respond quickly to consumer choices and thus subsist. The key to success is undoubtedly to be proactive, in search of new technological solutions, and be mouldable to market evolution.

Electrical or internal combustion engines: coexistence or extinction?

The automotive and foundry sectors are closely linked, although foundry is much more dependent of the automotive (around 50% of foundry production goes to the automotive sector) rather than the opposite.

About 75 million cars are sold annually and it is estimated that this number will continue to increase, reaching 100 million by 2050. The greater question at the moment is: how will the cars of the future be like? There are multiple variables, from the nature of motorization (electric or internal combustion), to sustainable weight reduction, and to the acceptance and growth of the autonomous, shared and connected vehicle, among others.

It is unanimous that the first great uncertainty about the cars of the future is relative to motorization. Predictions about the penetration of electric cars in the automotive market has varied every year and also between agencies that conduct the studies. This uncertainty was well demonstrated by Manuel Rui Vieira, with the presentation of estimates from several agencies, which showed that the global fleet size of electric vehicles by 2040 varies between 50 million (according to OPEC 2015) and 520 million (BNEF 2017).

Further complicating this uncertainty scenario are the decisions of some OEMs, such as PSA Peugeot Citroen and Vauxhall/Opel , to adopt a strategy that will focus on the use of internal combustion engines and some industry suppliers such as Bosch2 , which has announced new technologies that make internal combustion engines less polluting.

Governments also play an important role in the strategy for the sector, considerably influencing the OEMs’ decision-making through environmental policies and restricting the use of internal combustion engines and granting tax benefits in the purchase of electric cars. These factors make it even more difficult for car manufacturers and suppliers to make a decision on the investments and technologies to be developed.

Based on his long experience in the automotive industry, Robert Dover said that internal combustion engines still have room in the market, despite all the political pressure to extinguish them. Since the year 2000, technological developments in internal combustion engines have led to a reduction of around 95% in CO2 and NOX emissions, coupled with greater fuel economy through the development of technologies such as cylinder deactivation, better fuel injection control and injection pressure increase, among others, which give energy density to internal combustion engines at least 50 times higher than lithium/lithium-ion batteries. Dover also pointed out that internal combustion engines will, for many years, be used in long-distance transport, as well as in ships, agricultural and construction vehicles.

Weight reduction: will aluminium replace iron?

Another evolution in the automotive sector, which has a major impact on foundries, is the constant demand for components with less weight to increase the efficiency of cars. This weight reduction has been carried out in two ways: new materials and new component designs.

In recent years, the tendency of most manufacturers has been the replacement of ferrous alloys (iron and steel) with aluminium alloys, which led to large reductions in weight due to lower aluminium density and improvements in its strength. However, and as it always happens when there is competition, much innovation work has been done in ferrous alloys to maintain their competitiveness and achieve also significant weight reductions. An example of this is the development of Compacted Graphite Cast Iron (or Vermicular Graphite Cast Iron) to replace the traditional Gray Cast Iron (or Lamellar Graphite Cast Iron) in the application in motor blocks and cylinder heads, as well as the use of High Strength Steel alloys (HSS) on the vehicle’s body.

Another innovative application is the development of hybrid automotive components, which bring together the best of ferrous alloys (their strength) with the best of non-ferrous alloys such as aluminium (low density). Robert Dover presented a successful example of this technique: the Ford 2.3 / 3.0L V6 gasoline engine, in which the engine block has the section where the cylinders slide made in Compact Graphite Cast Iron and the motor housing in aluminium.

The experts’ general opinion is that all the alloys will have importance in the future of the automotive sector through the constant developments that are conducted. Light alloys such as aluminium, magnesium and even carbon fibre will be more widely used in electrified city vehicles. For higher strength alloys such as steel and cast iron, although they can also be used for the same application as the previous ones, they will maintain a great application in vehicles of greater power and of long course, transport of goods, agricultural and construction vehicles.

New mobility trends - sharing, connectivity and autonomy

The future of the automobile does not depend only on the technology of motorization or the reduction of weight. The way we use the car and its impact on sales also will also result in a major revolution.

One of the great precursors of the new mobility trends in Portugal, CEiiA, presented the concept of "mobility as a service" and its implementation strategy. Helena Silva revealed that, according to CEiiA, the great boosters of mobility are flexibility and “on demand” mobility, connectivity, electrification and autonomous driving.

It seems safe to say that, in the future, the sharing of cars in the cities will be dominant, in favour of reducing the total number of entering and leaving vehicles in the cities as well as the parked ones, not being used most of the time. A more rational car use is envisaged, where sharing will largely replace property, giving primacy to the economy of use rather than ownership.

This idea seems to contradict the estimates that car sales will continue to increase over the next 30 years. In fact, car sharing will require an increase in shared cars in cities and, due to its more intense use, it is expected that the service time of these cars will be shorter and their renewal will be more frequent. We should also remember that in developing countries, the use of private or shared cars is increasing, which will largely contribute to the growth of car sales worldwide.

Also changing are the requirements of drivers or car users as connectivity begins to gain increasing importance when making a car purchase decision. In an increasingly connected world, it is natural that those who travel require this functionality, so this characteristic in the car is foreseen indispensable.

Connectivity is even more relevant when considering the future use of autonomous driving cars, where passengers will be more willing to work, shop online, chat or even watch TV shows while traveling. Major investments have been made in the development of connectivity to enable communication between vehicles, essential for the future of autonomous driving. A major effort by OEMs is visible in the development of technologies and services that allow drivers this experience. The CEiiA believes, based on Deloitte studies, that in 2040, 60% of the distance travelled will be made in autonomous electric vehicles with flexible “on demand” services.

1“'Electrification puts the car industry at risk' says PSA boss Tavares at Frankfurt”; The Telegraph by Andrew English; 12 de setembro 2017;;

2“Carbon-neutral cars: synthetic fuels turn CO2 into a raw material” Bosch Media Service, 22.08.2017, Press Release;