In the industry of electrical wires, a copper automotive wire harness is the most popular choice.
There are several types for different functions, domestic wires, industrial wires, and automotive wire applications.
However, is there a better alternative? And what are the ways to take advantage of this alternative?
We answer all your questions here. At the end of this post, you’ll have all the info to guide your wire selection when you next work on your automotive.
Table of Contents
- Aluminum as an Alternative for Copper
- Why choose Aluminum instead of Copper in Automotive Wires
- Copper Automotive Wire Harness: The Issues with Aluminum
Aluminum as an Alternative for Copper
Over time, many electrical wiring systems have used copper as their primary material.
These applications range from industrial wiring to automotive to domestic wiring.
The popular reason for using copper is its high conductivity and low resistance.
Only one metal surpasses copper’s conductive capacity, Silver. It is a more expensive wiring option, however.
Still, copper assures a longer life span regardless of its corrosion issues.
However, today, the trend has seen the replacement of copper with aluminum.
This trend is especially common in automotive wiring applications. These include wiring harness applications such as in hybrid cars.
Therefore, let us see the reasons aluminum is gaining ground over copper.
(Bays of copper and silver wires.）
Why choose Aluminum instead of Copper in Automotive Wires
- One of the primary reasons you should choose aluminum instead of copper is its weight difference. In comparison, copper is heavy, while aluminum is light. When you consider larger-scale gauge uses, the lighter weight of aluminum becomes obvious.
It has been proven that the less weight during design and fabrication, the fewer problems.
Moreover, these electric and hybrid cars must follow government regulations of effective weight distribution.
- All vehicle drivers aim to conserve fuel and also battery life. Therefore, the need to use lighter metals becomes even more critical. When the metal is light enough, other automotive cables, including the wiring harness, become light too. In the end, it is a win-win situation for the end consumers and the environment as well.
- Another viable reason to choose aluminum over copper is its low price. Unlike these days, copper used to be among the cheapest metals globally. Nowadays, there is massive demand and little supply of copper. Emerging markets in China and India have been the chief influencers of this trend.
In the same way, there is a falling production rate from mining companies around the world.
Once a rare metal, aluminum, these days, has become widely available and affordable.
It is mainly due to the development of enhanced mining and refining practices.
- Finally, weight and cost are the most crucial factors. As a result, these automotive cables and wiring harness applications are better off with aluminum. Copper automotive wire harness cables give way to their aluminum counterparts for other reasons.
Ultimately, hybrid vehicles benefit the most from aluminum automotive wire harnesses for their low emissions.
（Automotive cables in hybrid car engines.）
Copper Automotive Wire Harness: The Issues with Aluminum
- As with every benefit, there are issues on the flip side. Therefore, aluminum has a few issues that need managing before it effectively replaces copper in industries. For example, in a power supply system, the primary concern with copper is heat production.
Automobile production lines using aluminum must always consider its unique creep features in high-heat conditions.
In such cases, any metal connections quickly come apart.
Hence, overcoming the challenge of aluminum creep must first include developing a working connection method.
- Although, there is a solution to the issue above. It involves using copper elements for the connection points while using aluminum elements in the cables. Still, copper and aluminum are not the best metals to combine.
The reason is that the two metals have excessive electrochemical potential when used together.
Corrosion. It overtakes the aluminum cables with copper connections, rendering the system useless.
- Also, joining aluminum and copper is quite expensive and complex. The state of technology in the modern day has proved that manufacturing industries still need help to feature the two metals.
As a long-term solution, scientists and engineers are developing a new concept that allows an intelligent connection.
They have codenamed this innovative method that permits aluminum electrical connections “LEIKO.”
This method utilizes a metal cage as a sheet to enhance connection stability and support contact in the pressure spring. Therefore, it converts the earlier creep issue to an advantage.
The expected lifespan of the proposed connection method is ten years. The method also promises durability throughout its lifespan period.
（Corroded parts of an automobile.）
As we have seen, copper is no longer the ideal solution for automotive harness cables in hybrid vehicles. Aluminum is a better option due to its lightweight and low cost.
However, it has its downsides, especially the heat-induced creep factor.
Nevertheless, the innovative LEIKO intelligent connection method ensures a long-lasting solution to automotive wire harness problems.
We hope you learned a few things. For more related materials on automotive products and services, check our other blog posts out.