Modern Auto Materials

Announcer: Go behind the wheel and under the hood on everything automotive with High Speed Stuff from

Ben Bowlin: Welcome to the podcast. Thanks for tuning in. My name is Ben Bowlin. I am a video writer here at And, as always, I am hanging out with -

Scott Benjamin: Scott Benjamin, and I'm the auto editor here at

Ben Bowlin: And you do a great job.

Scott Benjamin: Thank you. I appreciate it. Likewise.

Ben Bowlin: Oh, well, thank you.

Scott Benjamin: Since we're patting each other on the back, that's - yeah.

Ben Bowlin: Yeah. I've got to tell you just before we get into this, you remember that song where they say, "Blinded by the light?"

Scott Benjamin: Yeah.

Ben Bowlin: Okay. Just last week, I figured out that it's, "Blinded by the light, revved up like a Deuce."

Scott Benjamin: Yeah.

Ben Bowlin: Do you know what that's about?

Scott Benjamin: Isn't that a Deuce Coupe?

Ben Bowlin: Yes.

Scott Benjamin: A Ford Deuce Coupe? Is that right? Oh, did I steal your -

Ben Bowlin: No, not at all.

Scott Benjamin: Oh, I'm sorry. Yeah.

Ben Bowlin: I'm nodding like that because every time an automotive question comes up, I realize I should stop messing around and go find you and ask you.

Scott Benjamin: Oh, okay. I don't know if I answered anything for you in there.

Ben Bowlin: You kind of did.

Scott Benjamin: You must have looked it up ahead of time, right?

Ben Bowlin: I did because I was looking for a nickname for you.

Scott Benjamin: Oh, no.

Ben Bowlin: I don't know how -

Scott Benjamin: Oh, boy.

Ben Bowlin: Really? How do you feel about the Deuce?

Scott Benjamin: That's so cool. The Deuce.

Ben Bowlin: Think of the puns.

Scott Benjamin: The Deuce.

Ben Bowlin: You've deduced that, huh?

Scott Benjamin: I don't know, that's -

Ben Bowlin: Don't mean to reduce it. All right. I'm sorry.

Scott Benjamin: Oh, man. Do you have more or is this - do I have a choice?

Ben Bowlin: I don't want to knock them all out of the park today.

Scott Benjamin: Oh, really?

Ben Bowlin: This is gonna go on for a while, just to let you know.

Scott Benjamin: It's an ongoing bit, huh?

Ben Bowlin: Yeah.

Scott Benjamin: The Deuce. Okay, I'll write down the Deuce, and we're gonna have to have a list.

Ben Bowlin: Depending on what our listeners say. Yeah.

Scott Benjamin: A list. I love lists.

Ben Bowlin: I love lists too, man.

Scott Benjamin: Okay, the Deuce. We'll add it to the list.

Ben Bowlin: Okay, we'll add the Deuce to the list.

Scott Benjamin: I guess I'm gonna have to get to work on a nickname for you.

Ben Bowlin: Turnabout is fair play.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, I guess.

Ben Bowlin: It took me a second, but no, you're right. You're right.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, okay.

Ben Bowlin: Okay, so, I did that. Our listeners can stop me in my mad quest to find a nickname for Scott, or the Deuce, but that's just because it makes a big difference to us what our listeners think. And this is all a segue for -

Scott Benjamin: The intro to our topic today, which is really a listener request.

Ben Bowlin: Awesome.

Scott Benjamin: It's a piece of listener mail. We do read all these.

Ben Bowlin: Every one.

Scott Benjamin: I promise you we do, and sometimes we have some pretty good requests that come in. This is one that I thought we should jump on right now.

Ben Bowlin: All right. What is it? Lay it on me.

Scott Benjamin: It is from -

Ben Bowlin: Sachin, right?

Scott Benjamin: Sachen, yes.

Ben Bowlin: Now, Sachen, we apologize if we're mispronouncing your name. It's spelled S-A-C-H-I-N.

Scott Benjamin: Sachin.

Ben Bowlin: We're doing our best.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, Sachin. Sachin is from Mumbai, India.

Ben Bowlin: Awesome.

Scott Benjamin: And here's how he starts, "Dear Brian and Scott."

Ben Bowlin: Ah, yeah. Yep.

Scott Benjamin: He says Brian. "Dear Brian and Scott."

Ben Bowlin: I could feel that. I could roll with the Brian.

Scott Benjamin: All right. That's what I was thinking.

Ben Bowlin: No, no, don't get me wrong. I don't want that to be my nickname.

Scott Benjamin: No, it's not a nickname. It just says, "Dear Brian and Scott." He's close enough.

Ben Bowlin: I can understand.

Scott Benjamin: Close enough.

Ben Bowlin: Yeah.

Scott Benjamin: Okay. I just threw that in there just as a little jab. It says he's a long time listener. He was wondering if we could do a podcast episode dealing with the materials that cars are made of these days, he says the effects that it would have on handling, performance, pricing, etc. It's a little confusing when you hear about carbon fiber, aluminum steel, sheet metal, titanium, other things like that. He says that cars just seem to be getting lighter compared to the models that they replace.

Ben Bowlin: Oh, he knows you. He has been listening.

Scott Benjamin: Oh, yeah. He knows I like the weight issue, so we're gonna talk about weight and - not just weight, but we're gonna talk about materials today.

Ben Bowlin: This is awesome. What a great question. This is right up your alley, Scott, because I know for a while this has been something that we return back to, but we've never done a podcast just about this. We've mentioned it.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, we have, about the various materials that go into making a complete car, really. There's no way we're gonna list all of them.

Ben Bowlin: No.

Scott Benjamin: We're not gonna go into metallurgy and what compounds that make stronger metals, etc.

Ben Bowlin: Temperature differentials or anything.

Scott Benjamin: But I'm just gonna mention a few that are common then and now, what cars were made of at one point and what they're made of now.

Ben Bowlin: Oh, man, yeah. Let's start with then.

Scott Benjamin: Then?

Ben Bowlin: Yeah, can we?

Scott Benjamin: Easy enough. As you would guess, wood. Cars were made of wood. Honestly. Of course, the engines had to be - they were metal materials.

Ben Bowlin: Iron, steel.

Scott Benjamin: Of course, iron and steel. Mostly iron probably at that point, then steel. But wood was predominantly used for frames. It was probably not until about 1900, the best I can figure here - I'm looking up some information - there was a guy in Milwaukee. His name was Arthur O. Smith, and he created the first pressed steel frame for car, and Henry Ford happened to find out that he was doing this, and Ford said, "I'll take 10,000 of those, and I'll being making steel frame cars instead of the wood frames that we've been doing in the past." This kind of led to even more modernization of his cars on his line. By 1906, that's when Henry Ford started using metal frames. I believe it's 1906. It's close to that date, if not exact.

Ben Bowlin: Circa.

Scott Benjamin: It's right around that time. So, we moved from wood frame cars to - and of course, they still had wood bodies at that point.

Ben Bowlin: I see.

Scott Benjamin: There were steel parts. Then, of course, yeah, there were metal parts that were being made, but for the most part, cars had wood bodies. They were just constructed of wood. So, we moved from wood to metal, and steel was predominantly the metal that they used at the time. There's a lot of different types of steel that we use right now. We still use steel a lot. There's still a lot of steel in cars. It's got a lot of benefits to it. It's relatively low cost. It's durable. It's easy to form. It's easy to make into whatever you want it to -

Ben Bowlin: For fabrication and stuff.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, exactly. You can make steel body parts. You can make steel frames. Of course, the ways that we form it have become a lot more advanced. We use hydroform for steel frames for trucks. Of course, there's stamping, which is a pretty old process, but there's just a lot of different ways you can form that steel. There's a lot of different types, like I mentioned. There's low carbon steel, which I think is also called mild steel, I believe. There's boron steel, and I think that Volvo uses a lot of boron steel. It's supposed to be really strong stuff. There's stainless steel that the DeLorean used. Not many people use stainless steel other than decorative accents at this point. Aside from steel, there's - of course, iron has been used for engine blocks for a long, long time. They're getting away from that because of the weight. And they can make - we can make aluminum. We can use aluminum blocks for engines at this point. And aluminum - we'll just kind of go through this long list of the progression of metals and materials, but aluminum is lighter weight. It does have a higher cost associated with it, though.

Ben Bowlin: For now.

Scott Benjamin: For now, yeah. I think I've read numbers about as much as five times as expensive as - I think it might be as expensive as steel. They may be comparing it to steel.

Ben Bowlin: Which is why you only see aluminum in large quantities in racing vehicles or high end experimental vehicles?

Scott Benjamin: Well, no. It's finding its way into more and more cars than you would expect, really.

Ben Bowlin: Really?

Scott Benjamin: You're correct that it was kind of reserved for the high end vehicles, the race - not race, but - well, race, of course, but -

Ben Bowlin: Then, emphasis on low weight kind of vehicles.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, exactly. The sports cars or some very expensive vehicles! It's finding its way into even the compact versions now - aluminum blocks. The cost must be coming down considerably for them to do that. Otherwise, the prices - well, prices aren't extremely low or anything by any means, but it must be coming down for them to include them in that type of vehicle versus one that's $80,000.00. So anyways, there's benefits. It's more difficult to form. It's a little more difficult to weld. But in 1994, Audi with the AA came out with an aluminum chassis, and that was kind of revolutionary at the time.

Ben Bowlin: Yeah, it's a game changer.

Scott Benjamin: It's was, yeah. And now, there's a lot of cars that use aluminum for the chassis, and you wouldn't expect that because it's a softer metal. It does have its problems. I'm not saying that the Audi frame has any problems. I'm saying that if you use aluminum for body panels, let's say, that panel - if you lean on that panel, it may be more apt to bend than if you had a steel panel.

Ben Bowlin: I see.

Scott Benjamin: Or a plastic panel, which we'll talk about in a moment, that would, I guess, keep its form a little better than aluminum. But aluminum is softer, and it's more susceptible to damage, so it's typically not used for body panels right now, other than race cars.

Ben Bowlin: Stop me if I'm stealing your thunder. Did you just say plastic?

Scott Benjamin: Plastic, yeah. Plastic. There's a lot of plastic.

Ben Bowlin: I don't want to jump the list.

Scott Benjamin: No, it's okay. I've got a couple more ahead of that, but we are gonna get to plastic and plastic plays a key role in car production right now. It's - well, you know what?

Ben Bowlin: Yeah, not yet. Not yet.

Scott Benjamin: Let's wait. One more metal or a couple more - actually, one more metal that I want to mention. This is one that you hear about a lot in racing - titanium.

Ben Bowlin: Titanium, yes. What is the deal exactly with that?

Scott Benjamin: With titanium? Watches, things like that are made of titanium. You sometimes hear that that's a benefit in some way for a watch to be made of that, or a lot of James Bond type gadgets are made with titanium. The deal with titanium is that it's a real low density, real strong - it's a real effective metal. Apparently it's corrosion resistant. It has the highest strength to weight ratio of any metal.

Ben Bowlin: That's why it's in race cars.

Scott Benjamin: That's why titanium is used in race cars. Now, it's very expensive, and right now it's being used for things like spacecraft and jets and race cars and missiles, in very exotic applications, but titanium is used in racing, and it's because the strength is high, the weight is low, and the cost - well, that's not why, but the cost is high in racing as well. These are expensive parts.

Ben Bowlin: It's used - but let's be honest about titanium. Titanium is used in places where cost takes a far back seat to performance.

Scott Benjamin: That's right, yeah. Or form, I guess is what you're trying to get at there. The function - it's very functional, and it's a very sound choice, I guess. But again, the cost outweighs - for me, it outweighs the benefit.

Ben Bowlin: So, I'm not gonna get that titanium Monte Carlo any time soon?

Scott Benjamin: Probably not. I don't think you'll see that coming any time soon.

Ben Bowlin: All right.

Scott Benjamin: But you may have a carbon fiber.

Ben Bowlin: Oh, man. This is like the Holy Grail of car materials to me.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah. Yep, we're talking about car fiber.

Ben Bowlin: Let's break it down real quick.

Scott Benjamin: Go ahead. What do you know about carbon fiber up to this point? Because we've talked about it in the past, if you know - I don't mean to put you on the spot, but just quickly -

Ben Bowlin: Okay. Well, all right, a brief, brief bit of background. Okay, so just in context here, our fascination with carbon fiber on this show goes all the way back even to our hypermiling episodes and our luxury car episodes where we talked about - and Scott very kindly put me on to what I call the carbon fiber game. This is an ideal material for vehicles. It's light. It's strong, and it has one huge disadvantage, which is that it is difficult to produce cheaply at this time.

Scott Benjamin: Very good. Yeah, you got it exactly right.

Ben Bowlin: Is that what - okay.

Scott Benjamin: Good memory. Excellent memory.

Ben Bowlin: Hey, thanks.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, I've been going over my notes, and I had to go back in my notes to figure out what we had said about it already, but you were exactly right.

Ben Bowlin: For our listeners, Scott's holding up a sign with those three points.

Scott Benjamin: I'm not. No, no, no, he's kidding. He's on his game.

Ben Bowlin: So, carbon fiber makes really - if somebody was to ask, "What is the High Speed Stuff main point or main goal for efficient cars in the future?" it's reducing the weight.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah. Yeah, weight reduction is key and carbon fiber is part of that. You'll find out that there have been advances in carbon fiber since we last talked, even. Really, it's constantly changing. It'll kind of blend into what we're talking about when we talk about plastics. Carbon fiber, it's stronger than steel. It's stiffer than steel. It does have a high cost associated with it. That's partly in the materials, and it's also partly in just the forming of it. It's difficult to form a part in carbon fiber just because of the process involved. It's a fiber. It's a cloth material, really. It's a woven cloth material that has to be layered with resin and formed and sanded. It's a much more complex process than just punching out a piece of metal. Not that that's easy by any means, but I'm saying that it's a little more time consuming, and it costs more to begin with. So, as soon as that cost comes down, as soon as we can get the price - I think they price it per pound. I think that's what we mentioned before.

Ben Bowlin: Yes. Yeah.

Scott Benjamin: Once they get that price down, then we'll start to see a lot more car parts made with carbon fiber. We're already seeing a lot of that in some of the exotic cars, like Corvette uses carbon fiber. The BMW M6 uses carbon fiber in a few places. They use bumpers. I think the roof is made of carbon fiber, and there's also some internal structures that are made of carbon fiber as well. There's also the - of course, Lamborghini - well, you know what? Let me skip that one for right now because that leads into the next one.

Ben Bowlin: Okay, okay.

Scott Benjamin: But VW's 1-liter car - you know what? Both of these do now that I - of course, I'm looking at my notes.

Ben Bowlin: Of course. No. I mean, of course, the 1-liter uses carbon fiber.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, the 1-liter, of course. It does. It uses the carbon fiber reinforced plastic, so that's a nice segue into what we're gonna talk about next.

Ben Bowlin: That is a nice segue.

Scott Benjamin: And one quick thing on carbon fiber. There's also dry carbon fiber that we didn't mention, but dry carbon fiber is even more expensive than what they call wet carbon fiber. There's these different levels. You may talk about a carbon fiber hood that you can get in an aftermarket place that's relatively inexpensive, but the real pros are using dry carbon fiber now. We're talking like Formula 1 type cars and top end race cars. Very, very expensive - thousands of dollars for a panel for a car! Very, very expensive, but it's lighter weight and even stronger, so it's a dry process that puts the carbon fiber together, so there's advances being made there as well. But what's really kind of exciting is that these blends are being made, these composite materials. And they're using carbon fiber to strengthen plastic materials.

Ben Bowlin: Ah, okay. All right.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, and it's really cool because a lot of cars, these advanced cars, these lightweight cars, they're finding a way to bring the cost of using carbon fiber benefits or bringing carbon fiber benefits and plastic benefits together, so the strength of carbon fiber, the lightweight and low cost of plastics are coming together to make these outlandish cars, I guess. Really cool, lightweight, either ultra high performance or ultra highly efficient vehicles, so you see that in Lamborghini which uses carbon fiber reinforced plastics to make the body panels. And the VW 1-liter car, which is on the opposite end of the performance spectrum, but it's a highly efficient vehicle. They use that - we just mentioned the carbon fiber reinforced plastic, which is - I think that CFRP is what they - the acronym for that.

Ben Bowlin: CFRP. Okay.

Scott Benjamin: I just think it's really cool that they're blending the two together, and there's a ton of plastics in cars right now, so there's a lot of plastic development happening, not only inside, but outside. We've seen it for a long time. Saturn has had plastic panels. Heck, even Ford, back in the early 1900s, was playing around with soybeans and plastic panels. I remember seeing - yeah, there's a film of Henry Ford taking a swing at a body panel on - I don't know if it's a Model T, Model A, what it is, but taking a swing at a car with an ax, and it doesn't even damage it. Interesting stuff, but he was big into soybean technology. Food products, soybeans used to make plastics. I don't know what else he was doing with them, but - preservatives, I guess. But look into the Ford soybean thing, and you'll be amazed at what you see and what he was doing way back then with soybeans. It was unbelievable.

Ben Bowlin: Man. So, that's kind of a surprise bonus material here that I don't think anybody was expecting. I certainly wasn't. We went through the evolution from wood to titanium to carbon fiber to plastics, and then soybeans.

Scott Benjamin: That's right. That's kind of getting into this next thing that we're talking about, and it's bio-plastics. Bio-plastics are big now and instead of - okay, regular plastics or typical plastics that we think of now, they're petroleum based, so they're made from crude oil, really. And apparently, it takes about - I think it said about a half a gallon of crude oil to make one pound of plastic. That's an approximation, so that's just a rough guess. I don't have any measurement of how much plant material it takes, but instead of talking about using crude oil, this is using bio material, like corn or seaweed or soybeans to make -

Ben Bowlin: So cellulose, basically.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, that's right. And it's using - and the emphasis now is using non-food products to make bio-plastics. In other words, it's not taking away from the food supply. It's using non-edible parts of a crop or a product in order to make these bio-plastics. It's not taken the wrong way. Ethanol is directly affecting our food supply or it was at some point. I don't know if it still is or not. It seems to have dropped off that argument, but this is using - again, the non-edible element of some type of crop. They haven't said right now what that crop is that they're gonna be using for this, but there's plans for Mazda and Toyota to begin using these bio-plastics as early as 2013 and 2015, respectively.

Ben Bowlin: Wow, so this isn't just something out on the distant horizon.

Scott Benjamin: Well, it is. It's out there. Well, you know what? 2013 is not that far away when you really think about it.

Ben Bowlin: That's pretty close, man.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, that is. You're right.

Ben Bowlin: Unless that world ending in 2012 thing happens.

Scott Benjamin: I hope not. I hope we get to the point where we can use these bio-plastics. Let's put it that way.

Ben Bowlin: Let's just hold out at least for another couple years.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, and another cool thing about all of this, and this kind of brings it all together, I guess. I have one more surprise at the end of this. Cars now, because of the materials that they're made of, are very recyclable. I know that's on everybody's mind, but they're saying that lot of cars right now are 85 percent recyclable.

Ben Bowlin: Wow.

Scott Benjamin: And I blogged about this not long ago that there's a couple of claims out there. Toyota claims that the 2010 Toyota Prius is 85 percent recyclable, and Lexus also makes the same 85 percent claim with their HS25H hybrid sedan. Apparently, Volvo has been making cars that are 85 percent recyclable since 2002.

Ben Bowlin: That's so crazy.

Scott Benjamin: I had no idea.

Ben Bowlin: You know what, though? I guess it makes sense because given the rising price of metals, its worth more - a company's time - to recycle metals, so maybe part of that number, I feel, might come from the evolution of recycling technology.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, I believe so. There's a lot of plastic and copper and iron. There's still iron and steel and everything else. There's aluminum, titanium I guess. I don't know. Magnesium, a lot of different elements that can be taken out of that! Even the seats can be shredded and reused in some way, I'm sure. That's what they're counting. The cloth material! The batteries can be recycled completely at this point.

Ben Bowlin: Tires.

Scott Benjamin: Tires can be recycled. You're right.

Ben Bowlin: My last car was made entirely out of gold, even the seats. It was really uncomfortable.

Scott Benjamin: Is that right? Yeah, that explains the gold teeth.

Ben Bowlin: Yes.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, to match.

Ben Bowlin: It was really - I hate to say it, man, but it was kind of a crappy car because it turns out gold is not the best material to build an engine with.

Scott Benjamin: No, I know. It's pretty heavy. It's soft, right?

Ben Bowlin: Yeah, it's ductile. I learned my lesson.

Scott Benjamin: I feel sorry for you.

Ben Bowlin: No, don't.

Scott Benjamin: It's sad that you had such a hard time with a gold car.

Ben Bowlin: It's okay, man. I lived my dream.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah. Good for you.

Ben Bowlin: Okay, let's keep going.

Scott Benjamin: Speaking of gold cars. Well, there's one that's kind of along those lines, I guess. Did you know that the - this is the last one I've got - the last example I've got here. The Bentley Continental is 85 percent recyclable as well.

Ben Bowlin: No way.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, and the interesting thing about this is that there was a guy in AutoWeek, his name is Greg - oh, boy. Greg. His name's Greg.

Ben Bowlin: All right. Greg.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, Greg at AutoWeek. I always do that, don't I? I just can't pronounce those names. Anyways, Greg says that the point is really inconsequential because 70 percent of all Bentley cars ever built are still on the road or hanging out in garages or museums.

Ben Bowlin: Oh, nice.

Scott Benjamin: So, 70 percent of all Bentleys ever made are still on the road, even though they're 85 percent recyclable.

Ben Bowlin: That's an even better selling point.

Scott Benjamin: That's pretty good. That's a good stat, I think.

Ben Bowlin: Yeah, I think so.

Scott Benjamin: One last thing I want to mention here.

Ben Bowlin: All right.

Scott Benjamin: I stumbled across this while I was looking for car materials. This will be brief. I'm gonna read the list because it's a long list. I found something. There's an article by Christine McClellan, and Christine is a Subaru Distinguished Earth Science Educator from the Geological Society of America. This is an activity that is for grade level 5 to 9, so fifth graders to ninth graders. She, being an earth science educator, is interested in what it takes to make a car - where the materials come from. This paper is called What Earth Materials Are in My Subaru? And you can apply this really to any vehicle, but apparently - this is, again, according to Christine. Apparently, the average car is made with over 30 materials extracted from the earth - 30 materials. There are 30 materials extracted from the earth. "Each element, mineral and resource," - so resources that we're talking about - "listed below has special properties that make them important in the production and the performance of the car." So, I've got this long list here that I won't read every one of them, but -

Ben Bowlin: Just give me a couple.

Scott Benjamin: It has the material, the amount in pounds in a typical vehicle, and then the use and I can just go down the list here and read some of the usual suspects and some that you wouldn't expect. There's aluminum. There's about 240 pounds of aluminum in the typical car. Of course, it's a lightweight material used in the body. Of course, we know that now that's also frame and other pieces as well.

Ben Bowlin: And that's a usual suspect, I'd say.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, that's right. And it's also used in the engine. I would think that this goes up for even more modern cars now at this point. Asbestos! There's 1.2 pounds of asbestos in every car. Not in every car, but this is a typical car.

Ben Bowlin: Inside the engine?

Scott Benjamin: Brake pads.

Ben Bowlin: Brake pads, oh.

Scott Benjamin: Brake pads, and that's - there are different types of brake pads now, so that's - sometimes yeah, sometimes no.

Ben Bowlin: God, inside the engine was the worst guess I've made in the history of this show.

Scott Benjamin: Barium. There's a trace of barium in every vehicle. It's used to coat the electrical conductors in the ignition system.

Ben Bowlin: Okay, okay.

Scott Benjamin: Cadmium, again, a trace. Let's see what that's for. It's chemically resistant coating. Carbon used for steel production, and also it adds strength to the rubber and the tires.

Ben Bowlin: That makes sense.

Scott Benjamin: There's 46 pounds of carbon in every tire. I'm sorry - in every vehicle. Cobalt, there's a trace of that. Gallium, there's a trace of that. Gold. There's a trace of gold in every vehicle, unlike your solid gold car.

Ben Bowlin: I'm setting a trend.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, that's right. Gold, there's a trace, and that's used in the electronic system, for contacts I would guess. Magnesium, 4.4 pounds of magnesium used to strengthen aluminum and zinc in the car. Mica. I guess there's a trace of mica that fills the shocks.

Ben Bowlin: So far, these all seem reasonable.

Scott Benjamin: Sulfur used in the battery, two pounds of that. Titanium, there's a trace of that in every car, I guess, used to make metallic alloys as a substitute for aluminum. Also used in paint, lacquers, plastic and rubber. Here's one - tungsten. There's tungsten in every car.

Ben Bowlin: Where?

Scott Benjamin: Lights.

Ben Bowlin: Oh, you got me.

Scott Benjamin: There's tungsten filaments, used for the filaments. There's just a trade of it.

Ben Bowlin: Touché.

Scott Benjamin: That's the filament for light bulbs.

Ben Bowlin: Yes.

Scott Benjamin: And in som e spark plugs, used in the manufacturing. Nitrogen, nickel, zinc ore, zirconium. You can go down this list, but this is an interesting article, I thought. Kind of a unique look at everything that goes into cars! She went down right down to the minerals and materials that come out of the earth. I thought that was pretty cool.

Ben Bowlin: And especially for this listener mail here. We hope that we've done an all right job breaking down some of these materials. Scott, I think you've done an excellent job. Of course, I'm not the expert. I've got to say it's surprising how much stuff actually goes into a vehicle.

Scott Benjamin: Oh, its thousands and thousands and thousands of hours of planning and development and figuring out which materials work best. It's really, really complex to figure out what materials to use where because some react with each other, so you have to be aware of what metals contact other metals because they often have corrosive properties or there's adverse effects with metal contacting other metal in some cases. That'll lead to rust or just outright decay, corrosion. There's just a lot of factors to consider, more than you would ever think, really. It's just unbelievable the variety of materials that go into making a car.

Ben Bowlin: And to Sachin again, all apologies, my friend, if we are mispronouncing your name. That is my fault. The important thing to remember here is that the materials used in a vehicle differ on a case by case basis with four main factors, it sounds like. Those factors being the cost of the material, the weight of the material, the durability of the material and any interactions it may have with other materials used in the system.

Scott Benjamin: Yep. Exactly right. Strength has a lot to do with it. Weight has a lot to do with it. Cost. You're exactly right. You got them all right in a row there. Excellent work. You've been listening.

Ben Bowlin: I have been listening.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah.

Ben Bowlin: I have been listening. And to our listeners out there, thank you for listening, and we really appreciate your time. As you see, we respond to listener mail. It might take us a second to get back to you sometimes, but we read every single one. So, if you have an idea that you'd like us to talk about or you have a question for us, please send us an e-mail at

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