The thought of a stainless steel car would appeal to almost anyone, but car manufacturers don’t seem to be in a hurry to make such a car. While much effort has gone into rust-proofing vehicle bodies, they still rust in the long run.
Even the cars now, namely, the Fiat 500, Mazda MX-5, and Honda 800, are all rust-like ordinary cars. So, why aren’t we making car bodies with stainless steel?
What is Stainless Steel?
Stainless steel is an alloy of at least 10.5% chromium known for its rust-proof and corrosion-resistant properties. It is why your kitchen sink is likely made from stainless steel, as is most of the cutlery in your kitchen and some of the shiny buildings you see around town. Seemingly a rigid material that can withstand the rain outside, why can’t it be used to make car bodies? Here is why.
It would be too Expensive
Tesla shocked the world when it made the Cybertruck with a stainless-steel body. Made of rigid space-grade material, the Tesla pickup Ultra-Hard 30X Cold-Rolled stainless steel body would not only not rust but could resist blows from a sledgehammer. It has all the hallmarks of a dream car, immune to corrosion, rusting, and bumps – but you can’t get a stainless steel machine just yet.
Technology.org states you must be content with the cost if you need a stainless steel vehicle. Stainless steel is more expensive than mild steel, sometimes costing twice as much as its gentler counterpart. Also, the process of steel machining required to produce car parts of a stainless steel vehicle is complex and would increase the cost of production. This is why the DeLorean DMC-12, a prototype stainless steel automobile, only features an exoskeleton. It has a thin stainless steel layer covering a fiberglass body. The implication is that the body can’t be repaired – it would require replacement if damaged.
It is not Visually Appealing.
A stainless steel body won’t look great even with the finest grinding services. Take a closer look at the DMC-12; you will discover it has many tiny scratches you can’t just wish away. They are difficult to remove; even if you tried eliminating them, you would have more. removing them means you have to scratch or grind them away in
the process of creating even more of them.
Painting the stainless steel body may be an option but not a solution. Several DMC-12 owners decided to paint their cars, but stainless steel is rugged. The paint would peel off since this material doesn’t hold onto the color. The painting would also take away the bragging rights of the new car owners: how would people know the car ahead of them is made from stainless steel?
Not many people want eternal cars.
Not everyone fancies the idea of a highly durable car. You want to buy the newest car but have other equally important financial responsibilities. It would be best if you had the inspiration to get another vehicle when the current one runs out of order – it develops scratches, paintwork wears out, rusts, and the body breaks down. Again, not many people will see the sense of purchasing another car if the old one is still functional and appealing.
Besides, the extreme durability of stainless steel cars would drive car manufacturers’ profitability into the ground. Automakers need to keep production lines moving and keep selling their products. A vehicle whose body is not likely to break down any time soon would not be good news to manufacturers. Only precision grinding businesses would have their profits shoot through the roof as their services would be in high demand.
It is Difficult to Work with
It is also tricky to work with stainless steel. Stainless steel requires top-notch grinding services, such as precision and machining. These processes take time to complete. Hence, parts may not be available soon enough as needed by car manufacturers. It is also difficult to weld and manipulate, taking much time to fix. What is more, a car whose body is 100% stainless steel would be too heavy. The actual structure of the DMC-12 is fiberglass with a thin coating of stainless steel.
Rust-proofing Vehicles is Cheaper
If the only reason to go for a stainless steel car is rust-proofing, the high cost would be a deal breaker. Cheaper anti-corrosion methods are available to make your car last longer without corrosion. Modern ways of galvanizing car bodies are so effective that they outlast some of their mechanical and electronic components.
Types of Steel Used in the Automotive Industry
One common type of steel used in the automotive industry is mild steel. These steels have a ferrite microstructure and, hence, are easy to form. They were the most superior materials for car bodies but are now limited stiffness-related components requiring complex drawing and bending. They may have a lower strength but have a higher formability.
Another type of steel in car production is high-strength steel. Their primary strengthening mechanism is solid-solution hardening. This process makes the steel softer by ejecting carbon, making the resulting material more formable for the press shop. After this process, they become the High Strength Low Alloy (HSLA) steels which are strengthened by adding a microalloying metal such as titanium and niobium.
High-strength steels have been in use since the 1990s and are still being used in the manufacturing of many vehicles. They make body closures and energy-absorbing areas since they absorb more energy than mild steels.
A stainless steel car is still a pipe dream considering the complications such a car would raise. It would be too costly, heavy, and would require a long time to make. Such a car would also be highly long-lasting, dipping the profitability of automakers. Since it would develop many scratches, such a vehicle would not be visually appealing. Considering that cheaper methods of rust-proofing vehicle bodies are available, making a stainless steel vehicle would not make much sense.