Creating a good mixture of steel or metals for vehicle applications have always been tricky; there’s a fine balance between how you form it and how it reacts to forces, such as an accident. Usually, stronger metals are heavier and less malleable, or they could be more expensive to create, making them unsuitable for automotive purposes.
Fortunately, Nissan has just announced that, in partnership with Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp., they will be the first carmaker to utilize a new type of steel that combines high tensile strength with new levels of formability. Rated at 980 megapascals, the high-formability steel’s combination of flexibility and strength makes it possible to create parts with complex shapes that are both thinner and lighter than those made of conventional high tensile strength steel, while maintaining the ability to absorb energy in a collision.
Being lighter, this new steel will also increase fuel efficiency by minimizing weight, which is all part of Nissan’s sustainability plan that calls for lowering of CO2 emissions in all new vehicles up to 40% by 2022. The company is aggressively developing technologies to expand the use of ultrahigh tensile strength steel, aiming for it to make up 25% of the company’s vehicle parts by weight. In the US market, the Infiniti QX50 is made up of 27% of this new material, and is the world’s first vehicle to feature the steel in its front and rear side members.
The 980-megapascal steel developed with Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal can be cold-pressed, making it suitable for mass production. This. in turn, will help reduce overall vehicle costs in new models that will be utilizing the steel in their applications. Lighter weight, combined with more powerful engines, could lead to some very interesting performance vehicles utilizing this new material. We’ve yet to find out if any of the upcoming Nissan models will feature the same material soon, but it’ll be interesting to see the benefits firsthand.