Aluminum usage in cars will rise from the current 110kg per vehicle to 150kg by 2008, says metals provider Alcan.
The growth is driven by the increasing use of the metal alloy in roofs, hoods, doors and engine blocks. The next big growth areas for aluminum sheet products will be doors and roofs, said Roland Harings, Alcan Rolled Products' director of sales and marketing.
"Aluminum can cut the weight of a roof by 40 to 50 percent," Harings said at the Paris auto show. "As the center of gravity of vehicles moves higher, the benefits of saving weight on the roof also increase."
Currently, the main surge in aluminum applications is for casting engine blocks.
In the body-in-white sheet metal area, the greatest increase is forecast in aluminum hoods. Manufacturers like the lighter aluminum hoods because they reduce weight over the drive wheels of front-drive cars, improving a car's balance.
Luxury automakers are using increasing amounts of aluminum in high-end cars to improve vehicle performance and reduce weight, which helps lower CO2 emissions.
But aluminum is also appearing in volume models. One of the highest-volume applications of aluminum hoods is in the new Opel Vectra. The Peugeot 407 station wagon, Citroen C4 and Renault Modus also displayed aluminum hoods at the Paris auto show last month.
The case for aluminum being used on high-volume vehicle production is proven, said Harings. The question is whether car companies are prepared to pay more per ton for the metal to get the benefits that aluminum delivers.