Aluminium sheet from Hydro is making electric vehicles lighter. The proof is in France, where electric "Bluecars" are spinning through the boulevards of Paris.
The Pininfarina Bluecar, a product of the car design factory Pininfarina in collaboration with the French industry group Bolloré, was introduced at the 2008 Paris Motor Show. It's no longer a concept: In 2011, about 3,000 cars were produced.
All have deep-drawn side wall panels made of aluminium body sheet, developed and delivered from Hydro's rolled products plant in Grevenbroich, Germany.
You can't buy the car, though. Not yet. The entire fleet is mobilizing the new Parisian car-sharing system Autolib, which was launched in December 2011. The program is based on Vélolib, the bicycle-sharing system in Paris that has 20,000 bikes ready to rent and ride at more than 1,200 stations across the French capital.
“It is exciting to be part of Bluecar and Autolib,” says Stéphane Texier, who works in Paris as sales manager for Rolled Products' Automotive unit. He has already seen the Bluecar silently rolling along the boulevards, at zero CO2 emissions … and so will the millions of people residing in or visiting Paris.
“In particular, we appreciate being the sole supplier to crucial body parts for a car that gives off a cool aluminium look. So I can actually see our contribution,” says Texier.
It brings back memories of the legendary Mercedes “silver arrows” some decades back, winning racing trophies with unpainted, ”naked” aluminium bodies.
300 km without recharging
“The Bluecar order is a good next step in our efforts to help the automotive industry develop efficient electric cars. It illustrates the growing importance of aluminium solutions for the mobility of tomorrow, including when power sources and concepts of utilization change,” says Pascal Wagner, head of the Litho, Automotive & Heat Exchanger business unit in Rolled Products.
The customer, Bolloré, is also satisfied: They have ordered from Hydro all the additional 200 metric tons of rolled aluminium needed for the Bluecars to be built in 2012.
This second generation of Bluecars shall be improved, saving more than 50 kg on the steel understructure.
Says Texier: “We expect a 200 kg body-in-white in 2013, which expands the driving range from 250 km to 300 km, without any recharging needed. That would be unique in Europe.”
Furthermore, the natural aluminium touch on the body shall become even more attractive.
Hydro's Rolled Vision team is working on special aluminium foil for electric car batteries. Hydro also collaborates with Volkswagen, Ford and 12 other institutions in the international “LIGHT e-BODY” project to develop a light-weight body for electric vehicles.
Hydro can bring a sound track record from a previous project for affordable light-weight design of car bodies, the "SuperLightCar," which won an InnoMateria award 2011 in Germany.