Plastics can make a substantial contribution by offsetting this extra weight. Vehicles where the passenger cell is built of light-weight but very strong carbon fibre reinforced plastics and side panels from plastics will soon be on the market. In combination with other materials, plastics can reduce the weight of car parts by up to 70% when compared with conventional material components.
Moreover, innovative technology makes it possible to use plastics and metals together, thus combining the advantages of both materials. It is also worth
noting that an increasing amount of bodywork parts are bonded instead of welded, which further reduces weight and improves stability and strength. Bonded front and rear windshields enable the construction of increasingly aerodynamic vehicles.
In collaboration with Faurecia and Performance Materials Corporation (PMC), BASF has developed a car seat back based on new plastics technology. The back weighs 20% less than that of a conventional car seat and is about 30 mm thinner, an important advantage when it comes to making vehicles lighter.
Plastic glazing for side and rear windows as well as panoramic roofs are becoming more and more popular. Substituting alternative materials with plastics for such applications can lead to a massive 40% reduction of the weight of these parts.
Plastics also give designers freedom which alternative materials do not provide. Today plastics make up 12 to 15% of modern cars. This is expected to ultimately increase to more than 20% in the future.
Finally, plastics in cars also mean more protection and safety for the driver, passengers and pedestrians. Thanks to plastics, our cars are equipped with safety belts, airbags, protective panels, etc.
The automotive industry is undergoing a significant change and plastics play an
increasingly critical role in the development of low emission and zero-emission cars of the future. Weight is a decisive criterion in vehicles design: the lighter the better. As such, the course is set for “slimming down” electric vehicles.