General Motors China Advanced Technical Center (ATC) has recently reached a milestone in lightweight automotive materials research: the team successfully completed initial low-pressure casting of a prototype magnesium part — an alloy control arm — in its micro-foundry and formability lab.
The development is of noteworthy significance due to the lightweight nature of magnesium, one of the lightest metals currently available. The alloy control arm, for instance, is 30 percent lighter than a similar part made from aluminum. And the lighter the vehicle, the higher the fuel economy. Common sense? Absolutely. In fact, GM estimates a 7 percent fuel economy improvement for every 150 kg (330 pounds) reduction in a vehicle’s weight. The trick is maintaining the strength of aluminum or other metals in a lighter material.
This isn’t the first time GM has experimented with using magnesium: nearly 60 years ago, a 1957 Chevy Corvette SS was built using magnesium body panels. However, the use of the weight-saving metal in components hasn’t seen widespread adoption due to its currently high cost and various difficulties encountered in working with it.
The GM Authority Team
Congrats to GM’s ATC team in China for their achievement — this is some advanced stuff, indeed.
Now, it could certainly be that, in a matter of decades, most vehicles will contain magnesium components for the sake of lighter weight, improved fuel economy, and even improved performance. But in the meantime, magnesium — like engines powered by water — remain in the labs.