Steel pips aluminium in electric car race

British Steel has won lucrative automotive business away from an aluminium producer by persuading Norwegian company Pivco to use steel in its new electric car being launched this October. Pivco was set up in 1992 to develop and sell an electric car. Working with various industrial partners, the Oslo-based company has developed a two-seater urban […]

British Steel has won lucrative automotive business away from an aluminium producer by persuading Norwegian company Pivco to use steel in its new electric car being launched this October.

Pivco was set up in 1992 to develop and sell an electric car. Working with various industrial partners, the Oslo-based company has developed a two-seater urban car, known as the City Bee, which will go on show in Brussels in October at the annual European Electric Vehicle Show.

The car is powered by a nickel-cadmium battery, and has a range of 65 miles and a top speed of 55 mph. Central to the vehicle’s design is its low weight, which demands much lower energy consumption than a conventional car, and increases the vehicle’s range.

Aluminium had been used for the prototype chassis because of its lightness, with Norwegian aluminium company Norsk Hydro providing a space frame. But British Steel proved that it could offer significant cost savings and comparable weight savings to aluminium using its range of high strength steels which are lighter than traditional steels.

‘The chassis now has a steel lower and an aluminium upper,’ said Tor Nenseth, Pivco’s materials administration manager.

The new business has been won by British Steel’s automotive engineering group in Coventry, which was set up two years ago to improve links with the automotive sector. Sales to the industry account for about 20% of the group’s turnover.

Professor Jon King, who heads the division, said: ‘We’ve developed a simple design philosophy suitable for low-volume production and we’ve been able to show that a steel structure can be almost as weight effective as aluminium, but with significantly lower cost both in investment and piece price terms.’

Pivco expects to produce 5,000 cars a year by 2000. The car is expected to retail at about $10,000 (£6,000), which compares well with other electric vehicles.