Context and Objective

In countries where energy costs are a major constraint, aluminium has long been used in rolling stock construction to reduce the weight of vehicles and lower energy consumption. For every kilogram of aluminium that replaces heavier material, GHGs are reduced by 20 kilograms throughout the life of the vehicle. Airplanes, subways, trains, buses, trams, and trolleys are manufactured in aluminium around the world by some of the same major producers present here in Quebec.

It is obvious that sustainable mobility, transportation electrification, and aluminium are a perfect fit. Indeed, the Quebec government committed to electrification of transportation in Copenhagen as part of its strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions: a 20% reduction by 2020. The transport sector accounts for 40% of this target, of which 80% depends on activities of the Greater Montréal region.

Advantages of aluminium in the production of transportation equipment

  • Lightweight
  • Mechanical strength
  • Ease of manufacturing
  • Watertightness
  • Recyclability
  • Durability
  • Corrosion resistance
  • Energy absorption
  • Formability
US Environmental Protection Agency

The evolution of alloys and joining techniques for aluminium, especially friction-stir welding, helps reduce the total cost of ownership of public transit vehicles of all stripes.

The United States’ CAFE 2025 (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standard opens the door to a natural market for Quebec companies able to gain a foothold. The US administration announced that the standard will extend to medium and heavy-duty vehicles, to trailers including campers. Automobile manufacturers were swift to comply: the 2015 model of Ford’s iconic F-150 was 300 kg lighter thanks to its new aluminium body design— other manufacturers have already announced their intention to proceed in the same direction. Some years ago, luxury brands such as Range Rover were innovators in this field.


Consortium Bus électrique

Consortium Bus électrique (CBÉ)

In its June 2010 budget, the Quebec government launched the electric bus development project (Projet mobilisateur de l’autobus électrique – PMAÉ), which led to the creation of the Electric Bus Consortium (Consortium Bus Électrique – CBÉ). In this program, the government committed to investing 50% or up to $30 million for the development of standard electric bus prototypes. The consortium plans to deliver its first buses in 2017.

The AAC contributed to the CBÉ’s work by commissioning relevant technical and trade studies.


Practical solutions to prevent galvanic corrosion between aluminium and steel in ground transportation (French only)

This guidebook was produced in 2011 for the AAC by the NRC’s Aluminium Technology Centre.

Research showed that some North American manufacturers and bus buyers were reluctant to integrate aluminium into their vehicles. The skepticism regarding the ability to effectively combine aluminium and steel without risk of galvanic corrosion had a deterrent effect on the use of aluminium.

The purpose of the handbook was to demonstrate that galvanic corrosion is a manageable phenomenon from an operational standpoint as part of the manufacturing process of rolling stock. Specifically, this document aimed to demystify galvanic corrosion between aluminium and steel, and identify methods to effectively and reliably deal with its occurrence during bus manufacturing and maintenance.

Search for aluminium parts suppliers

In the spring of 2011, the AAC commissioned the Trans-Al Network to identify Quebec SMEs that could manufacture buses with high aluminium content. The analysis resulted in a shortlist of manufacturers with the capacity to produce all the major parts of a bus in aluminium.

Partial global survey of aluminium bus deliveries per manufacturers1

Over 100,000 aluminium buses have been built and used worldwide in over 30 years. The goal of this non-exhaustive survey was to show Quebec policy makers that aluminium has a long, successful history in the manufacturing of buses across the globe. If aluminium is becoming increasingly indispensable for the automotive sector, it should also be the case for public transit.

At the time it was conducted, this study identified integrators and manufacturers using aluminium all over the world; this number has surely increased since then due to interest for electrification and lightweighting of vehicles in connection with greenhouse gas reduction projects.

In 2011, over 100,000 buses made mostly of aluminium were in circulation around the world.

1 Source: Partial global survey of aluminium bus deliveries per manufacturers, National Research Council Canada, prepared for the Aluminium Association of Canada, May 2011. (Available in French only)

Other applications in Quebec

Aluminium is increasingly prominent in the decision-making process of transportation equipment manufacturers. These decisions are motivated by lightweighting requirements to meet consumption and GHG reduction targets or financial considerations such as total cost of ownership, which integrates the cost of material over the lifetime of the product from maintenance to recycling.

In the near future, other projects in Quebec could benefit from aluminium including:

  • The new AZUR Montréal métro cars: this electric train will be lighter, as several of its components are made of aluminium, including the roof.
  • The light rail transit (LRT) planned for the new Champlain bridge will be electric and have a dedicated lane; an aluminium body would reduce its weight and increase its energy efficiency.
  • Other LRT projects such as Montréal’s West Island LRT and airport shuttle, outsourced to the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, would only benefit from an aluminium design.


Other uses