Steel is expected to remain the material of choice for body structures and is up to future light weighting challenges.

At the IMechE "Light weighting for carbon-free vehicles" conference at the Jaguar assembly plant in Birmingham, Jon King, director of Corus automotive engineering, said steel continues to remain the preferred body structure material for vehicle construction.

He noted that although the average vehicle is now 50% heavier compared to 40 years ago, the use of advanced high strength steels (AHSS) has offset this by around 60kg, whilst at the same time helping impove safety. This can equate to a saving of more than one tonne of CO2 over the vehicle's lifespan.

Forthcoming EU legislation is proposing a 20% reduction in today's CO2 levels, down to 130 g/km in 2012, with penalties for non-compliance by the vehicle manufacturer determined by a weight-based sliding scale. This switches the focus firmly towards cost-effective light weighting measures to complement the efforts being made on powertrain efficiency and aerodynamic improvements.

King said that the development and use of advanced simulation tools is crucial, as the need for optimisation instead of compromise assumes greater and greater importance.