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Making light of heavy vehicles


The drive to protect the planet for future generations is gathering momentum. Where possible, organizations are striving to reduce their environmental footprints. This is undoubtedly the case in the automotive industry, with initiatives like light-weighting and the development of electric vehicles. Molybdenum-containing steels enable a number of exciting improvements in efficiency, safety, and sustainability in heavy vehicles.

© iStockphoto.com/DarthArt

Tens of millions of trucks drive enormous distances each year to deliver their loads. The movement of goods is a complicated, resource-intensive affair. Despite efforts in recent years to remove freight from the roads onto alternative modes of transport, such as trains or ships, trucks remain the backbone of the industry. These heavy, gas-guzzling vehicles deliver anything from building supplies, to clothes and groceries, to fuel and heavy industrial parts. Today's world would simply grind to a halt without the constant movement of freight on the roads. Finding ways to lessen the environmental impact of trucking is therefore essential for a more sustainable transport of goods and commodities. Specialized, molybdenum-containing steels are helping to make trucks and other vehicles lighter, and therefore, more fuel-efficient.

Molybdenum- keeping things light
Molybdenum has been part of the steel structures of cars and light-weight vehicles for more than 30 years. Moreover, in recent years government agencies around the world, including the U.S Department of Energy, have set specific targets for weight reductions in heavy trucks by 2050. With this in mind, it is clear that molybdenum is set to play an even greater role in making trucks safer, more efficient, and more sustainable.

Such weight reduction targets can be achieved with many different materials. Carbon fiber composites, aluminum, glass fiber composites, advanced high-strength steels, as well as steel and cast-iron materials are all potential options. However, materials that are not traditionally used in the manufacturing of heavy trucks, such as carbon fiber and glass fiber composites, present significant technical challenges in terms of joining and forming. Aluminum is currently used in a limited capacity but presents a different set of technical difficulties. High-strength steels and cast-iron materials have many properties, including strength, weldability, and formability, that make them ideal for heavy vehicles. And with the current state-of-the art manufacturing technology already in use, it is possible to incorporate these materials without having to revamp existing production facilities.

Performance criteria between trucks and cars are, of course, completely different. On average, trucks cover about 150,000 kilometres per year, and they have considerably more power and torque than cars. But the weight of the truck cab is surprisingly similar to that of a car – about 326 kilos- and uses many of the same materials.

Molybdenum containing high-strength steels and press-hardened steels are used increasingly in both truck cabs and cars to reduce weight. More critically, new safety crash standards introduced in Europe to protect truck drivers called for improved truck designs. The use of high-strength steels provides the required levels of crashworthiness while reducing the overall weight, resulting in both a safer and greener truck.

Find out more about other applications of molybdenum in trucks as well as a recent project to design new steels in China, where an improved 670MPa strength steel reduced the weight of a truck's trailer beam by 20% when compared to the original 520MPa steel.

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