ULSAB-AVC (Ultra Light Steel Auto Body - Advanced Vehicle Concepts) is the most recent addition to the global steel industry’s series of initiatives offering steel solutions to the challenges facing automakers around the world today. These are, the need to increase vehicle fuel efficiency while improving safety and maintaining affordability. ULSAB-AVC concepts dramatically change the kinds of steels normally applied to vehicle architectures, as well as demonstrate cutting edge steel vehicle design. This vehicle concepts initiative, engineered by Porsche Engineering Services, Inc., Troy, Michigan, USA, brings the potential for safe, affordable, fuel efficient vehicles, which are environmentally responsible, to near-term reality.
The ULSAB-AVC program presents advanced vehicle concepts that help automakers use steel more efficiently and provide a structural platform for achieving:
- anticipated crash safety requirements for 2004,
- significantly improve fuel economy,
- optimised environmental performance regarding emissions, source reduction and recycling, and
- high volume manufacturability at affordable costs.
Porsche Engineering Services, Inc. was contracted to develop concepts with a common platform approach for the popular European C-Class (so-called Golf class) and the North American midsize-class, which is the target for the PNGV (Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles) program (referred to as the PNGV-class vehicle).
A life cycle inventory (LCI) study was completed to evaluate the inputs and outputs of the ULSAB-AVC vehicles product system over its life cycle. That is, resource and energy consumption, emissions to air, water, and ground, and vehicle function were studied, from extraction of resources through vehicle manufacturing, operation and maintenance, and disposition.
A life cycle inventory approach was used as it provides a holistic and comprehensive view of the vehicle product system. With such an approach, it can be determined which aspects of vehicle manufacturing, operation, maintenance and disposition are most environmentally significant and how changes to the product system affect the outcome. Thus, it is possible to characterise environmental performance and identify those aspects of benefit and greatest priority for improvements.
The International Iron and Steel Institute commissioned the Center for Sustainable Systems at the University of Michigan (USA) to complete the LCI study. The Center for Sustainable Systems has extensive experience in life cycle modelling of vehicles and particular experience with the groundbreaking vehicle LCI study conducted by the United States Automotive Materials Partnership (USAMP). The study was completed in cooperation with life cycle inventory and automotive experts in the steel and automotive industries.
The study was undertaken to provide quantitative measures of the environmental performance of ULSAB-AVC vehicles. This information will be used to communicate with automobile companies and their suppliers in support of the ULSAB-AVC program. Secondly, the study will be communicated to the public to illustrate the world steel industry's commitment to improving environmental performance in the use of its products. Thirdly, the study will set a baseline for evaluating future developments in optimising steel vehicles.