Saving Weight: The Auto Industry’s Hunt for More Polypropylene-based Components

Weight reduction is essential in today’s automotive market. Governmental regulations in both the US and the EU require drastically increased fuel economy passenger vehicles must hit a standard of over 54 mpg in the US by 2025. Decreasing vehicle weight and increasing fuel efficiency in traditionally powered internal combustion cars are vital for the future of automotive design.

There are many advances to be made, for certain a recent shift towards smaller, turbocharged engines, more efficient engine ignition systems, and smart power reclamation from the exhaust and other sources of waste power have much promise when it comes to increasing vehicle efficiency.

But the most cost-effective solution is clear. Lighter cars use less fuel, produce fewer harmful CO2 emissions, and offer customers improved fuel economy. In addition to often increased performance.

Because of this, many vehicle manufacturers are looking towards lightweight materials, such as polypropylene-based components, to lighten their vehicles and improve efficiency.

Why Use Lightweight Plastics?

The math behind the usage of lighter materials in cars is staggering. Reducing the weight of car even by a relatively small amount, for example, 110lbs allows for up to a 2% increase in fuel efficiency, which also reduces carbon emissions.

If you apply these cost savings to entire fleets of vehicles, the advantages are clear, massive cost savings on fuel reduced emissions, and dramatically increased efficiency, even with a weight reduction of only several pounds on each car produced by an automaker.

Plastics Aren’t Just For Auto Bodies Anymore

Automakers have long integrated plastics into the bodies of their cars and indeed, are looking to incorporate larger amounts of advanced, sturdy polymers in an attempt to reduce weight. But plastics are no longer just limited to structural components.

Today’s sophisticated, durable polypropylene plastics can handle the rigors of many parts that were historically machined out of metals air ducts, tire reinforcement, coolant systems, and more.

One of the best examples of this is Kevlar® by DuPont™. This polymer is well-known worldwide for its incredible tensile strength. It is 5 times stronger than steel and is used in the manufacture of tires for many vehicles, and even in the body designs of more expensive, luxury cars.

As the advancement of durable, lightweight plastics continues, and plastic manufacturers around the world innovate with futuristic plastics that can take the place of metal components, we’re sure to see a corresponding rise in the purchase and implementation of plastic and polypropylene-based components.

The Future Is Bright For Plastics – And Automakers

Automakers are using more plastics in their designs than ever before, and this trend is only predicted to increase. A study by the IHS estimates that car shipments will rise to 104.1 million units in 2020 and that shipments of specialty chemicals to automakers, including plastics, will rise to a market value of $39.2 billion in 2023, up from $25.8 billion in 2014.

As advanced technologically innovative plastics continue to be implemented into new cars, it will certainly be interesting to watch this market segment, and see how innovation in plastics shapes and molds the auto industry.

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