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Taking plastics under the hood

James Snodgrass

European Plastics News

9 February 2015


A PA automotive expert is quoted in an article covering the European Plastics News’ conference 'Under The Hood' which focused on using lightweight applications in cars.

The article outlines how substituting metal for plastic could be used beyond the interior and exterior of cars - to the oily bits where most consumers fear to look.

Throughout the 1990s and 2000s successive generations of cars had been getting heavier, but this trend is now reversing. It is predicted steel will only be used in 52% of cars by 2017, and carmakers are moving from steel, to alloy, to fibre-reinforced plastics.

The piece goes on to explain existing uses of plastics cover technical applications such as manifolds in engine management systems, airbags, engine covers and braking systems – all of which aim to reduce cost and weight. However, the current techniques of putting plastics into high temperature applications have been over-engineered and costly.

As a result, the contribution of under the hood developments to overall lightweight solutions has been insignificant.

PA expert says: “In recent years [vehicle] weight increased but in the last two years we have broken out of this weight cycle. The weight savings per component were mainly driven by the body, chassis and exterior, with only 0.4% of weight savings coming from engines and cooling. One of the biggest challenges for polymers is temperature. We can’t substitute all parts of the engine with polymer, but perhaps we can change more than we think.”

Cost is the biggest challenge to weight reduction, but predicts the biggest under the hood weight reductions will come from downsized engines built from new materials. It will take five or six years before original equipment manufacturers’ (OEMs') procurement is based on weight saving, not material cost. “New materials are appearing rapidly but how can OEMs build up knowledge of their capabilities?"


For our thinking and insights on new routes to more fuel- and CO2-efficient vehicles, click here or contact us now.

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