It’s all about aluminium

It’s all about aluminium

Hulamin has carved out a niche in the global aluminium rolled products market – but offers so much more. FOCUS discovers what contribution the company, and its lightweight merchandise, is making to the commercial vehicle industry.


Hulamin, one of the leading manufacturing businesses in South Africa, produces state-of-the-art conventional flat-rolled aluminium products. It operates a direct chill and remelt facility as well as hot, cold and foil rolling mills.

Maku Mzimtsha, market manager for general engineering and growth projects at Hulamin, points out that the company’s rolled and extruded products are used in a variety of industries worldwide. “Aluminium is a truly modern material due to its strength-to-weight ratio, recyclability, corrosion resistance, durability, ductility, formability and conductivity.”

This makes the element ideal for applications within the transport industry, as the recent trend of adding more safety equipment and accessories has led to heavier vehicles. And as lighter vehicle and towing unit combinations have greater payloads, improved fuel consumption and produce lower emissions, the weight reduction pressure is on.

“In the commercial road transport industry, the success of aluminium isn’t only due to its light weight, but also because it provides great design flexibility for manufacturers, lower costs for operators and improved ergonomics for drivers,” explains Mzimtsha. “Furthermore, as it is economical to recycle aluminium components, landfilling is avoided.” The motivation to recycle is increased by the high value of aluminium scrap.

But the benefits don’t end there …

Lower emissions

Aluminium’s CO2 emissions reduction is twofold in commercial vehicles; when carrying heavy goods, it increases the load capacity of vehicles and therefore improves transport performance – allowing more goods to be carried per trip. It also reduces the overall weight, which lowers the fuel consumption when voluminous goods are transported.

According to the European Aluminium Association’s “Life-cycle reduction of CO2 emissions” fact sheet, one kg of aluminium saves 28 kg of CO2 emissions over the life cycle of an average articulated truck, with every additional kg of aluminium saving a minimum of 20 kg of CO2 emissions. As for city buses, one kg of aluminium typically saves 45 kg of CO2.

Passive safety

“In the context of its Road Safety Action Programme, the European Commission is looking into the introduction of energy absorption criteria for trucks,” Mzimtsha explains. “The aluminium industry has already developed several solutions for the automotive and railway sectors and is ready to take up this challenge for trucks.”

Regarding the metal deformation that energy absorbing elements undergo upon impact, aluminium systems enable absorption of significantly more crash energy per unit of weight than traditional systems. “As a rule of thumb, the light weighting potential exceeds 40 percent,” says Mzimtsha.

It should also be stressed that other parts of the vehicle, such as front and rear end under-run protection devices, could also play a significant role in energy absorption.

Applications of aluminium in trucks

“Thanks to its unique properties, aluminium is able to provide intelligent solutions for present and future generations,” Mzimtsha reiterates. “It is lightweight yet strong, durable and corrosion-resistant, formable, highly conductive, aesthetically pleasing and, above all, recyclable.”

And if you add in the fact that the use of aluminium components increases the residual value of vehicles, its no wonder that the element is used in trucks, trailers and buses – with the promising prospects that its use will continue to grow from strength to strength.

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