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 a lot of effort has gone into rust-proofing vehicle bodies, they still rust in the long run.
Even the latest cars, including Fiat 500, Mazda MX-5 and Honda 800, all rust as if they were common cars. So, why aren’t we making car bodies with stainless steel?
Consisting of at least 10.5% chromium, stainless steel is an alloy known for its rust-proof and corrosion-resistant properties. It is why your kitchen sink is likely made from stainless steel, as does most of the cutlery in your kitchen, and some of the shiny buildings you see around town. Seemingly a tough 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 tough 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.
According to Technology.org, if you need a stainless steel vehicle, you will have to content with the cost. Stainless steel is more expensive than mild steel, sometimes costing twice as much as its milder counterpart. Also, the process steel machining required to in the production of car parts of a stainless steel vehicle is complex and would increase the cost of production. It is for this reason that 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 here is that the body can’t be repaired – it would require replacement if it gets damaged.
Not visually appealing
A stainless steel body, even with the finest grinding services, just won’t look great Take a closer look at the DMC-12 and you will discover it has many tiny scratches which you can’t just wish away. They are difficult to remove, and even if you tried to get rid of them, you would end up with more of them. removing them means you have to scratch or grind them away, in the
process 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 not easy to paint. The paint would peel off since this material doesn’t hold onto the paint. 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 an extremely durable car. You want to buy the newest car on the market but have other equally important financial responsibilities. The inspiration you need to get another vehicle is when the current one runs out of order – develops scratches, paintwork wears out, rusting and body breaking 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 the profitability of car manufacturers into the ground. Automakers need to keep production lines moving, and keep selling their products. A car whose body is not likely to break down any time soon would not be good news to manufacturers. Only precision grinding business would have their profits shoot through the roof as their services would be in high demand.
Difficulties working with stainless steel
It is also difficult working with stainless steel. Stainless steel requires topnotch grinding services, such as precision grinding and steel 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 a lot of 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.
Cheaper alternatives to rust-proofing vehicles
If the only reason to go for a stainless steel car is rust-proofing, the high cost would be a deal breaker. Cheaper methods of anti-corrosion are available to make your car last longer without succumbing to corrosion. In fact, modern ways of galvanizing car bodies are so effective that they outlast some of their mechanical and electronic components.
Types of steel used in automotive industry
One common type of steel used in the automotive industry is the mild steels. These steels have a ferrite microstructure, hence, easy to form. They were the most prominent 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 the high strength steels. Their main strengthening mechanism is solid-solution hardening. This process makes the steel softer by ejecting carbon, and the resulting material is more formable for the press shop. After this process, they become the High Strength Low Alloy (HSLA) steels which are strengthened by adding a micro alloying 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 can 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 extremely 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, it would not make much sense to make a stainless steel vehicle.