NEW YORK A Washington
state law set to take effect Jan. 1 will restrict copper usage
in automobile brake pads and likely affect copper and brake
manufacturing across the country, industry leaders said.
Dubbed the Better Brakes Law,
the new legislation requires auto parts manufacturers to cut
the amount of copper in brake pads to less than 5 percent of
weight by 2021 in order to prevent copper runoff from entering
waterways. Manufacturers of friction brakes are required to
report copper concentrations in their brakes by Jan. 1.
The law will have nationwide
repercussions, analysts said, with brake manufacturers cutting
down on copper usage at an industry level to accommodate
automobile consumers in Washington and California, where a
similar law was enacted in 2010.
"Were going to see vehicle
manufacturers and brake manufacturers complying with (the
regulation) on a national level," Ann Wilson, senior vice
president of government affairs at the Motor and Equipment
Manufacturers Association, told AMM.
Copper fiber suppliers say that
producers will have to scramble to find a replacement material
with the same noise-canceling and non-corrosive properties of
"Its definitely going to
be an issue, and theres going to have to be some
proactive attempts to produce a copper fiber replacement
thats either lower-copper or no-copper," said Jim
Capizzi, sales manager for Sterling Heights, Mich.-based metal
fibers producer Sunny USA Inc. "How are we going to do that?
Ill be honest with you: I dont have a clue."
The legislation followed
environmental studies indicating that copper runoff from auto
brake pads harms fish in the states waters.
Ian Wesley, the Washington State
Department of Ecologys coordinator for the Better Brakes
Law, told AMM that copper can disrupt aquatic
ecosystems and reduce the ability of fish such as salmon to
smell. "Theres a lot of research thats been done by
NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) to
look at low-level effects of copper on salmon and other fish,"
he said. "It doesnt take much copper to have low-level
Wilson said that brake
manufacturers generally were supportive of the law and helped
collaborate on the specifics of the legislation. Some brake
producers, however, are concerned about the effects of the law
on the industry.
"Copper is a very nice material
to use in a brake pad," Rick Jamieson, chief executive officer
of Guelph, Ontario-based ABS Friction Inc., told AMM.
"The industry does use quite a bit of copper."
Industry sources declined to
disclose how much copper is used in brake pads.