Aluminium bus body saves fuel

Two lightweight buses with a high aluminium content will be displayed and road-tested during the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing next month.

Aluminium company Alcoa and Zhengzhou Yutong Bus Company (Yutong), China's largest bus manufacturer, have revealed details of the prototype design, which features an aluminium-intensive bus body approximately 46 per cent lighter than a traditional bus, therefore requiring less fuel and emitting fewer greenhouse gases.

The new buses features Alcoa's spaceframe technology – used in cars such as the Ferrari 612 and all Gran Turismo Ferraris, and the Audi A8 – as well as Alcoa forged aluminium wheels, aluminium side and roof panels and fasteners.

The Yutong buses will now enter extensive road trials, including helping to service transportation needs in Beijing during the Olympic Games and other major cities in China.

"The partnership between Yutong Bus and Alcoa on the new sustainable bus demonstrates long-term commitment to the support of our government's policy to build mass transportation vehicles in harmony with society – people and the environment," said Tang Yuxiang, chairman and chief executive of Zhengzhou Yutong.

"We realise that reducing the weight of tomorrow's short- and long-range buses will be essential for improving their sustainability," he added, "and that the intelligent application of aluminium is one of best methods possible to achieve such mass reduction."

"Our goal was to work with Yutong to achieve significantly more than 1,000kg weight reduction per vehicle," said Jinya Chen, Alcoa's president for the Asia-Pacific region. "In fact, we achieved a more than 1,300kg weight reduction – nearly one and a half tonnes - or approximately a 10 per cent total reduction. The vast majority of the savings include a 46 per cent reduction in the bus body, compared with traditional steel bus bodies in use today.

Alcoa says the aluminium industry is projected to be greenhouse gas neutral by the year 2025 as a result of projected use in the transportation market. This means that the savings in greenhouse gas emissions from lighter, more fuel-efficient vehicles will more than offset emissions generated when the metal is first produced.

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