Chinese scientists engineer giant magnesium parts for cheaper, lighter cars

The researchers have used a technology similar to Tesla’s ‘gigacasting.'
Loukia Papadopoulos
Representational image of a car factory production line.jpg
Representational image of a car factory production line.


Chinese scientists have engineered supersized magnesium alloy auto parts that could see the development of cheaper, lighter cars. The two giant parts consisting of a car body and a battery box cover were derived from a single mold in one casting.

This is according to a report from the South China Morning Post (SCMP) published on Friday.

“Magnesium alloys are about 30 per cent lighter than mainstream aluminum alloys and 70 per cent lighter than steel. Lighter auto parts can lead to an increase in car range and effectively alleviate ‘range anxiety’ for electric vehicles,” said Jiang Bin, a professor with the research center, in an interview with the Chinese news outlet on Monday.

More than 70 percent of the world’s magnesium resources are in China, added the researcher.

The scientists used high-pressure casting to create the two parts using a technology similar to Tesla’s “gigacasting” process. This high-pressure “mega casting” leads to smoother surfaces, stable dimensions, and the ability to mold in a single casting and has been responsible for speeding up Tesla’s production in its Shanghai and Berlin factories, seeing the production cycle shortened from 1-2 hours to 3-5 minutes.

Fewer parts = lower cost

“Fewer parts, lower costs and a simplified production line have contributed to Tesla’s industry-leading profitability. The weight of the rear body was reduced by 30 per cent, and manufacturing costs could be reduced by 40 per cent,” Reuters said in a June report about gigacasting.

Jiang further noted that replacing commonly used aluminum alloys with magnesium alloy could lead to many benefits when used with high-pressure casting. He explained that magnesium is lightweight and abundant, and magnesium alloys can absorb vibrations and dissipate energy.

The researchers further noted that they had overcome any challenges to creating large magnesium alloy castings through structural design, raw material purification, casting process optimization, and other means.

“Despite magnesium alloys’ slightly higher material cost compared to aluminum, the faster production speed and ability to produce more parts from the same amount of material makes the overall cost per part comparable,” Jiang said.

Carmakers everywhere are switching to more advanced casting processes for car bodies. Mercedes, Volvo, Volkswagen, and Toyota have announced plans to use mega casting, and Chinese carmakers, including Nio and Xpeng, are doing the same.

Experts now say the trial casting could promote the large-scale use of magnesium alloys in large complex structures.

“It holds strategic significance for the lightweight construction of cars,” the Chongqing Daily said in a report according to SCMP.

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