Cooperations with the automotive industry drive growth of the composites industry

High potential for lightweight construction

“Central challenges for automotive manufacturers include the reduction of CO2 emissions specified by the EU Regulation, new safety requirements and e-mobility,” reads the analysis of the VDI Centre which explains that the areas of activity for lightweight construction range from the selection and combination of materials through to component design and systematic approaches for complete vehicles.

Lightweight construction is an important lever for reducing fuel consumption, confirms the market study “Leichtbau als Innovationstreiber” (Lightweight Construction as an Innovation Driver” - a cooperation project of Automotive Management Consulting GmbH (AMC) and COMPOSITES EUROPE organiser Reed Exhibitions. “Since the energy balance of tomorrow’s low-energy and low-emission vehicles will primarily also depend on efficient lightweight construction there is a clear trend towards integrative vehicle concepts,” says study leader Rainer Kurek von AMC.

A similar view is shared by the authors of the “Composites-Marktbericht 2017” (Composites Market Report 2017) published by Carbon Composites e.V. and AVK, which will also be represented at COMPOSITES EUROPE in Stuttgart: they also expect the highest growth rates in the automotive sector including commercial vehicles over the coming years. “Also against the backdrop of the current political discussions (diesel emissions scandal, advances in e-mobility, pressure to enforce the energy transition, stricter CO2 requirements) additional laws and tax adjustments could provide a positive incentive for the lightweight construction market,” say experts.

Stable growth for CFP applications

Experts see slight yet stable growth for CFP applications in automobiles in line with market growth for the composites industry as a whole, which has grown over five consecutive years now. The now great importance of this segment for economy as a whole, they say, is one reason why trends in CFP production follow developments in GNP in the long-term view.

For CFP producers the automotive industry still ranks second in terms of demand and turnover. This, however, will change soon. According to forecasts, by late 2020 the demand created in this sector of industry will exceed that of aerospace (including defence). “In this scenario the automotive sector will account for some 30% of global demand amounting to approx. 239,000 tons,” forecasts say. This would correspond to about 72,000 t.

The authors of the market report currently see a major problem in the image of composites. Despite these materials’ outstanding corrosion properties, high shape retention, low-maintenance characteristics and durability as well as the possibility they offer to combine load-specific designs with a high degree of design freedom, composites are unfortunately still little known to decision-makers. Their warning: “To improve this situation is one of the most pressing tasks for the industry as a whole.”