Print 74 comment(s) - last by jimbojimbo.. on Mar 26 at 11:57 AM

Body shops face huge costs to gear up and train for aluminum vehicle repairs

Mainstream auto manufactures have used aluminum in the construction of vehicles for a number of years. However, most of the panels on cars and truck were traditionally made from stamped steel, while in some cases hoods and trunk lids were made from aluminum.
With Ford rolling out the all-new F-150 that uses a body made 95 percent from aluminum, the future looks expensive for body shops charged with fixing vehicles after an accident. Reports indicate the costs of tools and training at body shops could soar.

The Aud A8 has been primarily constucted of aluminum for nearly two decades
That would lead to labor rates at the shops rising as well, leading to more costly repairs. Ford is blazing the trial into mainstream vehicles made mostly of aluminum, but other manufactures will follow. Making broader use of aluminum to reduce the weight of vehicle is one of the big ways that automakers plan to meet CAFE standards handed down by the White House.
Some body shops will have to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in new training and equipment to be able to repair the aluminum used in Ford trucks. Smaller body shops might not be able to justify the cost, which could be a big benefit to dealer-owned body shops.
“Not every shop in America will be equipped to repair the new F-150,” said Dan Risley, president of the Automotive Service Association. “It’s cost prohibitive because there aren’t a lot of vehicles on the road with aluminum, so the return on investment could take a few years. When you throw aluminum into the mix, everything changes.”

The 2015 Ford F-150 will be the first mainstream vehicle to make wide use of aluminum throughout its body structure
He says that less than 20 percent of body shops will be equipped to fix aluminum body structures. Shops certified to fix high-end European brands like Porsche, Jaguar, and Audi cars that are used to working with aluminum will be the best ready to deal with the influx of new aluminum vehicles needing repairs.
Ford is not the only company that will employ extensive use of aluminum in full-size pickup trucks. General Motors announced last month that its next generation Silverado and Sierra will use the lightweight material.

Source: Detroitnews

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RE: Yup
By Etsp on 3/24/2014 12:33:20 PM , Rating: 2
You might want to rethink your logic in the increase in survival rates thing...

If two cars hit head-on at 2500lbs each, they would have the same rate of deceleration on impact as two cars going the same speed weighing 2000lbs each. The rate of deceleration is what causes injuries in accidents (when the passenger area isn't compromised).

RE: Yup
By moremilk on 3/24/2014 1:56:56 PM , Rating: 2
For one, it's not the deceleration rate that's the main problem, and, also, most accidents are not head-on collisions. Don't have stats, but I would suspect most happen at an angle, it's really difficult to have a head-on collision as most high speed roads have dividers.

and even in a head-on collision, there's a BIG difference between two smart cars colliding and two freight trains, the energy released in the 2nd scenario is many orders of magnitude higher. Even though the kinetic energy gets transferred instantly to your car in both scenarios, you get a heck of a lot more from a heavy vehicle. That energy pushes all sorts of debris towards you at higher speeds and that makes those debris much likelier to cause a fatal injury.

Of course, you are partially right in that any injury caused by sudden loss of velocity will not be significantly different. I don't have any idea what proportion of death causing injuries are external trauma vs internal injuries due to displaced organs (I presume that's what happens when you stop on a dime from high speeds - could be wrong) - empirically I would have thought external trauma is much more likely to kill you.

RE: Yup
By Etsp on 3/24/2014 2:09:00 PM , Rating: 2
You're in the car going 60mph. That car decelerates to 0mph in 0.5 seconds. You're going to be damaged by the seat belts, you're going to be damaged by the air-bag, you're going to be damaged by any of your limbs hitting the dashboard. Possible neck injuries due to whiplash.

The point of air-bags and seat-belts is that it's a LOT less damage than hitting the windshield or steering wheel with your head. Seat belts also enable crumple zones to extend the duration of deceleration.

RE: Yup
By theapparition on 3/24/2014 3:48:59 PM , Rating: 2
Please put down the high school physics book and walk away from the computer.

A crash isn't completely elastic. There are lots of other factors to consider. Even in your example of two cars with the same weight, the different crumple zones can drastically affect on occupants survival over anothers.

RE: Yup
By Etsp on 3/24/2014 3:59:06 PM , Rating: 2
So, if all vehicles on the road were 500lbs lighter, we would see a "massive increase in survival rates when accidents occur" ? I don't believe that's true, and that's the point I was trying to convey.

If you can provide a better argument for why that is/isn't true, feel free to enlighten us.

RE: Yup
By Solandri on 3/24/2014 5:51:11 PM , Rating: 1
All other things being equal, a heavier car will be safer simply because a greater percentage of the weight can be devoted to safety; be it longer crumple zones or stronger passenger cages.

The idea that "vehicles would be safer if they were all lighter" refers to one very specific case. In a head-on collision between a light vehicle and a heavier vehicle moving at the same speed, the lighter vehicle actually bounces backwards.* It winds up traveling in the opposite direction it was before the collision - most of the impact energy is transferred to the smaller vehicle.

If both vehicles had similar weight (you can make the heavier vehicle lighter, or the lighter vehicle heavier), the crash energy is more evenly distributed lowering the chance of injury. This is the first time I've seen half of the solution to that very narrow situation incorrectly overgeneralized to encompass all cars.

* BTW, elastic or inelastic doesn't matter for this result. It's a consequence of both momentum and energy needing to be conserved. The only thing inelasticity affects is how fast the smaller car is moving when it bounces back. In the worst-case (completely elastic collision), it ends up moving backwards faster than it was moving forward before the collision. In the completely inelastic case, its final velocity is based on the sum of the momentum of the two cars, which is backwards for the smaller car since it has less mass.

RE: Yup
By gerf on 3/24/2014 8:26:34 PM , Rating: 2
Given that more mass is safer, and that car weights are generally decreasing, I'm going to increase my mass in the only way I know how.

Eating lots and lots of Big Macs.

RE: Yup
By Mint on 3/25/2014 9:59:24 PM , Rating: 2
I think you're being a little hasty in your conclusion here.

Yes, deceleration rates will be the same with two 2-ton cars or two 2.5-ton cars. But a big part of safety is preventing passenger cell intrusion, and mass unrelated to structural integrity (like body panels) makes a car more deadly for others without being any better at taking a hit.

RE: Yup
By syslog2000 on 3/24/2014 5:54:54 PM , Rating: 2
Not sure if that is entirely accurate. Shouldn't it be the amount of energy that needs to be dissipated that affects the outcome?

Two 2500lb cars will have a lot more joules of energy that need to be dissipated compared to the 2000lb cars.

It follows that the 2000lb crash will cause less damage.

Or am I thinking wrong about this?

RE: Yup
By Solandri on 3/25/2014 1:08:57 PM , Rating: 3
Kinetic energy is 0.5mv^2, so it scales linearly with the car's weight. A 2500 lb car has 25% more kinetic energy as a 2000 lb car, but it also has 25% more mass. So the amount of energy each pound of the car needs to absorb is the same when two 2500 lb cars collide, as when two 2000 lb cars collide.

Where you run into problems is with size. If you double the weight of the car, the metal structures which comprise the crumple zones and safety cage for the passenger compartment need to be doubled in strength. But doubling the strength in one direction isn't enough - it needs to be doubled in all three directions. You end up with 2^3 = 8x the amount of required material. (Actually you don't need quite so much because most collisions are when traveling forward - spin-outs where you hit sideways are rather rare.)

So what you end up with is a bathtub-like curve. Smaller cars are more dangerous because they have insufficient weight allowance for safety features (the minimum being based on the weight of the occupants, which doesn't become smaller just because you've got a smaller car). Really big cars are more dangerous because their mass requires the safety features to take up a greater percentage of the weight, and again have insufficient weight allowance for safety features. And cars in between occupy a happy medium where they're able to fit in the requisite safety features within their weight budget.

If they're switching to lighter materials like aluminum, that says they're already at the lower limit of the weight allowance. So further mandated cuts will increase the temptation to shave a few pounds off the safety structures. This already has already become an issue in the rollover safety test. It's impractical to actually roll the car over to test the strength of its roof, given that there are so many angles at which a rollover could happen (collisions OTOH almost always happen with the car traveling forward). So the government and IIHS made a test which puts pressure on the roof at a certain angle. Another group tried testing at different angles and found the roof performed much worse at those oblique angles, meaning the designers are saving weight by optimizing for the test rather than for real-world situations.

"If you look at the last five years, if you look at what major innovations have occurred in computing technology, every single one of them came from AMD. Not a single innovation came from Intel." -- AMD CEO Hector Ruiz in 2007

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