19th June 2017
Carmakers all over the world are looking for lighter materials so that their cars pollute less. As a consequence of this industry megatrend, aluminium specialist, Hydro, has made several strategic investments in Norway and Germany over the last few years to meet this demand and at the same time secure the viability of high competence industrial jobs in both countries.
Aluminium is a preferred metal for many automotive applications for several reasons: its density is only one-third that of steel, it has excellent corrosion properties, leads heat and electricity effectively, and not least – it is infinitely recyclable. In addition, aluminium – when alloyed and manufactured in a smart way – absorbs energy very effectively, potentially improving the crash performance of vehicles.
“While global demand for aluminium is growing by 2 to 3 percent per year, we expect demand from the automotive industry to accelerate by 14 percent every year. This is due to rules and regulations, incentivizing car makers to build lighter cars that are more environmentally friendly. A car part in aluminium weighs about half of steel. In an uncertain world, one thing is certain – the world needs more aluminium,” says Hydro President & CEO Svein Richard Brandtzæg.
The automotive line investment is closely linked to investments Hydro has made further upstream in the value chain in Norway. Over the past couple of years, Hydro’s casthouses in Sunndal, Høyanger, Årdal and Karmøy in Norway have been upgraded with new innovations and equipment, specifically designed to meet the requirements of car makers. Altogether, these investments are worth close to NOK 150 million. Since 2012, Hydro has invested around NOK 7.5 billion in Norwegian primary aluminium and power production. New casting technology is under implementation in Høyanger and Årdal, where Hydro produces sheet ingot which at our plants in Germany can be rolled into plates and used in so-called hang-on car parts such as doors, hoods, roofs, and trunk lids.
At Karmøy, Hydro is investing in the world’s most climate- and energy-efficient production technology for primary aluminium – the Karmøy Technology Pilot – and also upgrading one of two casthouses to become a specialty products casthouse, mainly targeting the automotive industry. Metal from Karmøy is used in extruded car parts such as bumpers, piping systems and posts.
In Sunndal, Hydro has recently invested in so-called electromagnetic stirring equipment in one of the furnaces. The intention is to secure higher-quality aluminium ingots, a large part of which ultimately ending up as metal for cast car components such as engine parts and wheels.
Germany is Hydro’s main market, with an overall turnover of about 1.4 billion Euro in 2016 and more than 6,000 employees in Hamburg, Rackwitz close to Leipzig, Neuss and Grevenbroich.
In the Neuss area, Hydro is running the biggest and most powerful aluminum network in Europe consisting of the aluminum and recycling smelter in Rheinwerk, the rolling mill Alunorf joint venture and the finishing mill in Grevenbroich. All activities are supported by the largest central research and development center in the European aluminum industry, based in Bonn, and the sorting center for used aluminum in Dormagen.