New paints and steels remove CO2 from automotive production

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TOKYO – Automotive suppliers Asahi Kasei and JFE Steel have jumped on the decarbonization bandwagon by developing processes that save energy and reduce the industry’s carbon footprint.

Asahi Kasei, a producer of chemicals, creates a coating material for automotive steel sheet that can be applied at lower temperatures while maintaining conventional performance. The product could wipe out 300,000 tonnes of carbon output per year if adopted by the entire Japanese auto industry.

Coating is the most carbon-intensive automotive production process due to the amount of heat involved. Automotive coating is normally fired in drying ovens set at 140 degrees Celsius. Asahi Kasei’s new coats would lower the temperature to 80 ° C and reduce the number of cooking sessions.

The coatings, made from newly developed urethane resin, would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 30% at the coating stage and up to 10% for the entire automotive production process.

Asahi Kasei discovered a technology for producing chemicals that reduce environmental impact through its research and development of chemicals that do not use toxic materials. The company will sell the new coating material on a trial basis next year, with a target for mass production in 2026.

JFE Steel has developed a technology that reduces carbon production for very high tensile steel sheets. The pressing process of these sheets normally requires temperatures of around 900 ° C, but JFE Steel can press ultra high strength steel at room temperature.

The company discovered a way to distribute the pressure without breaking the sheet. The design of the material itself has also been revised. JFE said it has achieved world-class tensile strength levels for pressed sheets at room temperature.

Since heat is not required, the pressing process can significantly reduce carbon production. JFE Steel did not disclose the percentage decrease, but says the method removes up to 70 tonnes of carbon dioxide when processing 1,000 tonnes of steel, enough for a few thousand automobiles.

JFE Steel is deploying the newly designed steel to several automakers in Japan.

A gasoline-powered automobile releases 34 tonnes of carbon dioxide during its life cycle from production to disposal, according to the International Energy Agency. The carbon footprint of electric vehicles is 28 tonnes.

However, production accounts for 18% of all carbon production in the life cycle of gasoline-powered automobiles, compared to 46% for electric vehicles. Even if the switch to electric vehicles results in reduced driving emissions, a reduction in production-related emissions will be necessary to reduce emissions over all lifecycles.

Last month, Toyota Motor announced its intention to achieve net zero carbon in global factories by 2035, up from its initial target of 2050. The cooperation of materials suppliers will be essential to achieve this goal as it involves coating and molding processes. Toyota is urging leading suppliers around the world to reduce their carbon emissions by 3% this year.

Elsewhere, Porsche has already achieved net zero carbon production at German facilities. BMW seeks to achieve net zero emissions at all factories this year, reducing emissions per vehicle of production by 80% by 2030 compared to 2019. This trend has prompted automakers to work with material suppliers to reduce carbon emissions.

Nissan Motor has partnered with UACJ, Kobe Steel and other rolled aluminum producers to recycle scrap aluminum into automotive components. This project takes place with the manufacturing of the Nissan Rogue sport utility vehicle in North America, and the fragments are made into hoods and doors.

Aluminum has one-third the density of steel, which means it can reduce a car’s fuel consumption. But smelting aluminum consumes large amounts of electricity, so replacing steel with aluminum would quadruple carbon production. Ensuring the quality of recycled aluminum was an issue before Nissan’s breakthrough. A new Nissan model to be released in Europe this summer will also use recycled aluminum.


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