Plastics use in vehicles to grow 75% by 2020, says industry watcher

By 2020, the average car will incorporate nearly 350 kg of plastics, up from 200 kg in 2014, according to analyst IHS Chemical (Englewood CO). Meanwhile, the market for carbon fiber in car manufacturing is expected to nearly triple in the coming years. Usage of carbon fiber in automotive manufacturing will increase to 9,800 tonnes in 2030, up from 3,400 tonnes in 2013. These predictions are made in a report titled, "Weight Reduction in Automotive Design & Manufacture."


Carbon fiber usage is set to grow substantially in the auto sector according to IHS Chemical.

Cars represent a fast-growing market for the chemicals industry according to IHS, with global car shipments expected to nearly double over the next 17 years, rising to 104.1 million units in 2020, up from 56.9 million vehicles in 2003 based on information from IHS Automotive. The majority of the growth will be propelled by the fast-expanding Chinese market.

From a practical perspective, automakers are adopting new materials in order to reduce the weight of their vehicles to comply with government regulations says HIS Chemical. In the United States, for example, the Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency (CAFE) standards mandate that carmakers' passenger vehicle fleets average 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. To meet U.S. and European objectives for greenhouse gas emissions for 2020 and 2025, car road loads must be reduced by 30 percent, according to an estimate from IHS Automotive. This reduction will be required in addition to large-scale adoption of advanced engine, transmission, and hybrid technologies. The use of carbon fiber and polymer matrix composites are believed to enable car body-weight reductions of 25 percent to 70 percent.

For the most part, mainstream automakers will employ traditional metalworking approaches to weight reduction according to HIS as these offer a cost-effective application of known competencies, secure supply chains, and, most importantly, existing capital equipment. However, manufacturers may adopt more radical approaches, extensively employing plastics or composites.

The plastics industry has for some time tried to replace all the glass used in cars with polycarbonate (PC). This effort is well underway, with almost every vehicle on the road today having a PC headlamp and a PC/PMMA rear lamp. The next target for PC suppliers is car windows. While a limited number of vehicles have switched from conventional glass windows to ones using PC glazing, cost and regulation issues have limited the proliferation of this material.

However, the use of PC in windows could allow for greater innovation than now possible with glass says IHS Chemical. For example, components can be integrated into the glass, enabling carmakers to produce entirely new designs. The window/light/tailgate could now be integrated together, offering a great design prospect in terms of style and lines of the car with the overall price also providing a major weight savings over the standard construction method.

With car glass and interiors already having adopted plastics and composites, the auto industry now is turning things inside out-looking at ways to use these materials in body panels. This is leading to some ingenious developments.

Carbon fiber has long been

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