The demand for lightweight plastics for the automotive industry is set to soar, spurred on by an increased demand for lightweight vehicles and the growth of electric cars.  The automotive industry has developed rapidly over the past few decades, and one of the new developments and goals for the industry is to improve fuel consumption.

The amount of plastic part use in the entire industry is growing, as automotive manufacturers are increasingly aware of the benefits that this lightweight and easily malleable material offers. Plastic manufacturers work together with the entire automotive value chain in order to produce lighter vehicles. Vehicle manufacturers are actively working towards lowered fuel consumption, and one of the central ways to do so is through lighter vehicles. It has been estimated that every 10% reduction in vehicle weight results in a 5% to 7% reduction in fuel usage.

Vehicle manufacturers are therefore making considerable efforts to lighten new models as much as possible- thereby addressing not only environmental concerns but safety and affordability issues as well. By ensuring that vehicles are lighter than before, carmakers are increasing fuel efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

For many modern vehicles, approximately half of all parts are made out of plastics. A large proportion of these parts are made from two central plastic raw materials, namely polyethene and polypropylene.  A number of other plastics are also commonly used in vehicle manufacturing, including:

  • Polyurethane (PUR)
  • Poly-Vinyl-Chloride (PVC)
  • Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS)
  • Polystyrene (PS)
  • Polyoxymethylene (POM)
  • Polycarbonate (PC)
  • Polybutylene-terephthalate (PBT)

Beyond the environmental and fuel-saving benefits mentioned above, the use of these high-performance plastics includes benefits such as:

  • Minimal corrosion, enabling longer vehicle life
  • Flexibility in integrating components
  • Recyclability
  • Substantial design freedom
  • Safety, comfort and economy.

Lightweight plastic foam is another relatively recent addition which has significant potential for the industry; this material can be used to add strength to automotive body cavities and increase occupant safety. By filling thin-walled, hollow structures in vehicles with rigid, plastic foam can improve the structural strength of the vehicle without adding significant weight.

In the year 2014, plastics made up around 200 kilograms of a vehicle’s overall mass. This amount is expected to reach up to 350 kilograms by 2020- an increase of 75%.  It has been predicted that this value could triple by the year 2030. These developments offer plastic manufacturers powerful opportunities and could be the catalyst for phenomenal development in the industry.

Plastic & Chemical Trading is a valuable technical partner that supports your manufacturing needs. Contact us today to ask how we can streamline and improve your business!