Automotive lightweighting is a big deal these days in the world of plastics, with US Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency (CAFE) requirements that will force automakers to jack up mileage to 35.5 mpg by 2016, and to 54.5 mpg by 2025. Major plastics manufacturers are responding with new formulations to achieve these drastic reductions in fuel consumption by losing as much weight as possible in every part of the vehicle while maintaining strength, toughness, impact resistance, chemical resistance, and other properties in replacement materials. Many of these plastics were on display recently at NPE2012 in Orlando, Fla.
Click on the image below to see these some of these solutions on display.
The smart forvision electric concept car co-developed by BASF and smart has several features that help it lose weight. One of the main ones, which BASF showed at NPE, is the polymer wheel rim made of its Ultramid Structure, with long reinforcing glass fibers, which saves up to 30 percent of the weight of a metal wheel rim. BASF representatives said this is the first polymer wheel rim that can be mass-produced. (Source: BASF)
Interesting slide show, Ann. It's pretty amazing what they can accomplish today via use of bioplastics and innovations in injection molding processes. It seems like a lot of the lightweighting work takes place in the dash system. It strikes me that there should be a lot of other opportunities, particularly in the frame, to take weight out of the vehicle makeup.
Thanks for sharing this. Lots of great possibilities here.
I think the dash is the easiest application but the last slide stel in the door panels was replaced. I wonder how lightweight plastics have been/will be used in motorcycle helmets? And, how long do they last? The moving parts are constantly used and safety is the main concern in such a small space.
Thanks, Beth. There are many opportunities to take weight out of the frame and structure via composites, but there are assembly and process issues involved with transferring those technologies to highly automated, high volume automobile manufacturing. Meanwhile, lightweight metals production for cars is also being studied and occasionally applied, though usually, like composites, to high end race cars and more customized apps.
Ann: I ride a motorcycle. My curiousity is around appllying the newer lightweight plastics to helmets. Helmets have gotten much lighter over the years but there is a perception that heavy equals safe. Lightweight componets have been introduced over the years but tend to break off and need replacement with intense use.
I'd be concerned about using polycarbonate or PC/ABS for the hood of a tractor. These materials are known for poor environmental stress cracking resistance, especially when exposed to fuel or oil. Friends have told me about having this problem with other injection molded tractor hoods.
By the way, it seems like the images for slide 2 and slide 10 have been switched. Slide 2 shows a door module, but the text is about a tractor hood. Slide 10 shows a tractor, but the text is about a door module.
This is great. Plastics (a variety of them) have been used in firearms frames for a while. That is a demanding application, and they last. The next step is to bring back aerodynamics. The trend toward SUVs and cross-overs (or station wagons, as they should be called) has hurt fuel economy at least as much as increased weight. I understand that most of the weight increase is the result of safety measures. Using plastics will help mitigate some of that.
The lightest parts are inflated parts with the internal pressure adding to get rigidity. Too bad space is such a premium on cars. Maybe the wheels and some structual body parts could benefit from this technology. (might add a softer collision factor in an accident)
I worked in the motorcycle business for many years. Helmets have always been the trickiest thing to make. Plastic helmets have been manufactured, but the best, lightest helmets have always been fiberglass. The reason is that the plastic shells were actually too durable! Thin fiberglass can be talored to crush and abrade at specific rates. The shell actually is designed to crumple like the front and rear zones of modern cars. The newest plastics will probably be able to take over soon, but so far the best helmets are fiberglass construction.
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