Forged aluminum truck wheels dramatically cut CO2

Alcoa peer-reviewed study looks at the benefits of switching from steel wheels.

September 26, 2012

CLEVELAND — A study for global aluminum producer Alcoa concludes its aluminum wheels substantially cut the carbon footprint of commercial vehicles.

The peer-reviewed life cycle assessment found in North America that substituting 18 conventional steel truck wheels with Alcoa aluminum wheels cut carbon emissions by 16.3 tonnes over the lifetime of the wheels. In Europe, replacing 12 steel wheels cut 13.3 tonnes.

Here are some highlights:

• Savings of switching one 18-wheel truck from steel wheels to Alcoa forged aluminum wheels equals the average annual carbon footprint of a four-person North American household.

• End-of-life scrap value is nearly equal to that of primary aluminum.

• For volume restricted vehicles in North America, switching from steel to forged aluminum produces average lifetime savings of almost 2,000 litres of fuel. In Europe, savings are more than 1,942 litres.

• For mass restricted vehicles where lighter weight aluminum wheels allow for additional payload, aluminum wheels accommodate 188 kg of additional payload per haul with the same fuel consumption. In Europe, the amount totals 215 kg of additional payload.

• CO2 “break even from making the wheels to using them” can be as early as 402,325 kilometres, or about two years, after which all travel tallies CO2 and energy savings.

The study conducted by PE International Inc. & Five Winds Strategic Consulting analyzed the cradle-to-grave production process of commercial vehicle wheels and incorporated the latest information on energy and material consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental releases. Alcoa provided primary data for aluminum wheel production from facilities in Cleveland and Barberton, Ohio, Mexico, Hungary and Japan.

PE International provided upstream data for fuels, raw materials, and steel wheel manufacturing processes, including primary metals and chemicals.

The study was also peer-reviewed by professionals in the life cycle assessment community, including experts from Technische Universitat Berlin and the University of Michigan.

Click here for a copy of the study: Comparative Life Cycle Assessment of Aluminum and Steel Truck Wheels.