For quite some time, the automotive industry has been looking for replacements of steel-bodied cars. There have been murmurings of titanium being used in automobiles for some time; indeed, some parts are already made of the lightweight metal. Now, however, we are seeing ostensibly one of the earliest uses of the metal on an automobile body. Icona, an Italian design house that specializes in exporting design expertise to growing automotive markets such as China, has now announced that its very own sports car, the Vulcano, will feature a titanium body.
With titanium being one of the most abundant metals on Earth and having qualities that make it stronger than steel, as well as significantly lighter, the metal is a natural fit for automotive bodies; already used in aircraft and other industrial applications, titanium has been courted by the automotive industry for some time. Titanium still presents significant challenges, however. Despite being abundant in the Earth’s crust, the mining and production process is very complex, rendering titanium production to be very costly in comparison to competing metals.
The durability and strength of the metal also become an issue. Titanium is far more difficult to machine and mend, due to its immense rigidity and tensile strength. Though most shops and machinists can work with steel and aluminum, titanium would not be easily repairable in collision shops or for other purposes.
Yet another objection cited with the use of the titanium body is that it would not properly crumple when engaged in an accident; in such a case, titanium could either splinter or not dissipate force properly, making the vehicle more dangerous during a collision.
Indeed, Icona’s car isn’t even made entirely of titanium but rather a mix of titanium and carbon fiber. Few details of the car’s titanium-incorporated body have been released ahead of its debut at the The Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance next week. Clemson University did a study regarding the viability of titanium cars a few years ago, which rendered an amalgam of insightful observations.
Part of the production process for the Icona Vulcano can be seen below.