In the 1920s magnesium began to make an appearance in the automotive industry. The light weight metal began to be used in racing cars to add to their competitive edge. About a decade later, magnesium began to be used in commercial vehicles such as the Volkswagen Beetle which contained about 20kg (44.09lbs) of the material. The interest in magnesium use in automotive applications has increased over the past ten years in response to the increasing environmental and legislative influences. Fuel efficiency, increased performance and sustainability are top-of-mind issues.
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The use of magnesium in vehicles can, and does, lower overall weight and improve each of these conditions. Many large automotive companies have already replaced steel and aluminum with magnesium in various parts of their products. Audi, Daimler (Mercedes-Benz), Ford, Jaguar, Fiat and Kia Motors Corporation are just a few of these companies. Magnesium is currently being used in gearbox, front end and IP beams, steering column and driver’s air bag housings as well as in steering wheels, seat frames and fuel tank covers.
The usage of magnesium in automotive applications can provide more than just a weight savings. For a number of years, the desire to identify challenges, solutions, and opportunities regarding the use of magnesium in vehicles has been growing. Magnesium usage on the front end of a vehicle provides not just a lower overall mass for the car, but also allows for the shifting of the center of gravity towards the rear of the car improving handling and turning capabilities. In addition, frequencies that reduce vibration and overall noise can be achieved through the tuning of magnesium parts. Steel components in vehicles can be replaced by a single cast piece of magnesium adding to the strength of the material and allowing for housings to be cast into place. This castability also requires less tooling and gauges which lowers manufacturing cost.
Image: Chicago White Metal