Trumps crazy metal tariffs, Fiat Chrysler innovate with aluminium and other news from our world.
We’ve got the tiger by the tail – Fiat Chrysler on their cool new aluminium alloy
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles have developed a brand new aluminium alloy for engines, and it tolerates much higher levels of heat than anything else available on the market right now. They’ve been working in partnership with Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the casting suppliers Nemak to create the new alloy, which is designed to allow increased compression ratios in their combustion engines. This, in turn, acts to increase efficiency without reducing performance.
As compression ratios increase, engine temperatures also shoot up. The old-school aluminium alloys used for cylinder heads tend to be 319 and 356 grade, and start to lose their mojo at about 392 degrees Faranheit. The new alloy, however, includes a small amount of copper, which delivers a much higher temperature tolerance. Named 16HT or ACMZ, it can handle temperatures as high as 572° F before it starts to lose strength, which means engineers can reduce the thickness of the metal used between the valves, plugs and fuel injector and enjoy more flexibility in designing engines. At the same time production only costs 7% more, the new material can be cast, and it doesn’t demand new machinery.
The best thing is, when Fiat Chrysler announced they’d be testing copper in search of a new alloy, the motor industry laughed. Now they’re not quite so amused. While the alloy remains experimental for now, with commercial applications a few years off, researchers have already successfully cast a few dozen cylinder heads from the material and are currently testing them.
When will local steel and aluminium suppliers feel Trump’s tariffs?
Trump’s June announcement of a 25% tariff on steel imports and 10% on aluminium is predicted to cost the US steel industry billions in lost revenue as well as thousands of jobs. Investors are uncertain too, and some analysts say the equity and commodity markets are already seeing a slow-down.
There’s not much sign of US steel and aluminium producers suffering from Trump’s tariffs yet, and exports aren’t falling right now. But it looks like they’re already making inroads into cutting costs, preparing for tricky trading conditions in future. And it also appears that the real financial impact won’t be known for a while, at least until the current crop of export contracts starts to come to an end.
On the other hand reports say that confidence has already dropped dramatically as players face a host of unanswered questions and the trade conflict deepens. A growing supply glut, leading to dumping product, is also steadily getting worse.
Canada strikes back
Canada has fired a shot across Trump’s bow over US steel and aluminium tariffs, announcing a satisfyingly large 10.5 billion Euros’ worth of ‘retaliatory duties’ that’ll stay in place until Trump relents. The move means some US exports will see whopping 10-25% price hikes.
As the Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said, the very idea that her nation poses a threat to the USA’s national security – Trump’s reasoning behind the tariffs he has set – “is not only absurd, it’s hurtful.”
The Canadian tariffs came into play on 1st July and will affect a diverse range of popular US products including American coffee, ketchup, whiskey, lawnmowers and playing cards.
Metal markets face total disorder
Trump’s efforts to rebalance the world’s trade scene in his nation’s favour have driven US copper and zinc prices down sharply, and are forcing the price of steel and aluminium up. The chaos is only set to get worse as different nations respond in different ways to the American president’s actions.
All this is starting to affect US manufacturing, and the rest of the world is seeing metal prices on a rollercoaster ride as investors vote with their feet. But worse is to come if, as expected, the US and China kick off an even more acute trade-war involving hundreds of billions of dollars in punitive charges.
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