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New automotive technologies will change aluminum demand: Audubon VP

Fort Lauderdale, Florida — New automotive technologies are changing global aluminum demand, Ben Pope, vice president of US secondary specification alloy producer Audubon Metals, said Tuesday.

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Technologies like gasoline direct injection (GDI) and continuously variable transmissions (CVT) are emerging in the automotive industry to provide efficiency on engine design and operation, he said.

"Vehicles being recycled have more scrap than is needed to produce the next generation vehicle," Pope told delegates of the S&P Global Platts Aluminum Symposium, "GDI is the most import factor that companies looked at in the last five years."

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Though electric-vehicle adoption will be a long, slow transition, due to the lack of charging infrastructure, design changes will reduce demand for secondary aluminum ingot, he said

Moreover, the aluminum scrap stream will continue to change because of the increased volume of sheet and extrusion, which will lead to a new norm in secondary pricing, Pope added.

"Scrap availability will create an opportunity to lower the cost of structural parts," said Pope.

He said the "EV revolution" probably would not happen before the next 10-15 years.

However, Pope said the workforce had an important role in this change. "The next-generation workforce will not be looking for opportunities in our industry, and we must change to recruit/retain," he said.

In 2018, EV sales increased 79% in the US, 78% in China and 34% in Europe, compared with 2017. US sales represented nearly 17% of global EV sales in 2018.