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Lightweighting innovations powered by plastics on display substantially boost the driving range.

Stephen Moore

February 4, 2024

2 Min Read
futuristic car design
Gorodenkoff/iStock via Getty Images

At a Glance

  • Driving ranges of more than 740 miles now achievable through lightweighting
  • Front-end and cockpit modules, and battery packs benefit from increased use of plastics
  • Conversion technologies also playing key role in weight reduction

As the new energy vehicles (NEVs) take a great leap forward, driving range is also increasing simultaneously, from more than 500 km (310 miles) to up to 1,200 km (745 miles). For every 100 kg of weight reduction in an NEV, the driving range can be increased by 10 to 11%, while the costs of battery and daily wear and tear can be reduced by 20%. Therefore, lightweighting has become a focus of innovation for major automakers and parts manufacturers because it leads to improved efficiency in the powertrain and optimized driving range. Each automaker has its own strategy, using new materials and advanced processing technologies to "slim down" their vehicles.

For example, Toyota, BASF, and US Farathane have co-developed plastic frames to create IsoDynamic Performance seats with built-in, four-way shock, which reduce costs by 20% and weight by 30%, to boot.

Forvia’s latest solution for seat back panels, dubbed Skin Light Panel, is made of mono-material polyurethane (PU) via 3D fabrication, reducing weight by 20 to 30%.

For its part, Marelli has teamed up with Covestro to develop a new lightweight PU foam that reduces the weight of the main cockpit panel by 40%.

In addition to weight reduction of front-end and cockpit modules, the battery pack, which accounts for 20 to 30% of the weight of the whole vehicle, has also been a key part for lightweighting in recent years.

General Motors' 2023 Cadillac Lyriq EV uses polyamide (PA) 6.12, PA 66, and polypropylene (PP) from various suppliers. Through extrusion, injection molding, foaming, and automatic assembly, the materials are processed into thermoplastic EV coolant pipes for the thermal management system. The multi-layer pipes not only have excellent chemical resistance, but also achieve a 60% weight reduction.

In addition, Syensqo's Ajedium PEEK slot liners can reduce the weight of the battery pack and motor by 12 kg (26.4 lb) and 4 kg (8.8 lb), respectively.

Further, Mitsubishi Chemical has teamed up with partners to develop a composite casing for EV batteries, reducing the number of components from five to two, and ultimately achieving a weight reduction in the battery casing.

Wanhua Chemical's high-pressure resin transfer molding (HP-RTM) PU battery case is also innovative and can reduce weight by 40 to 50%.

Processing technologies, including integrated molding and foaming, also play a key role in the lightweighting of NEVs. For example, Engel’s integrated molding of front-end NEV modules, KraussMaffei’s physical foaming process, and Haitian International’s micro-foaming process are being used to realize lightweighting.

This article is an edited and abridged version of source material provided by Adsale Plastics Network.

About the Author(s)

Stephen Moore

Stephen has been with PlasticsToday and its preceding publications Modern Plastics and Injection Molding since 1992, throughout this time based in the Asia Pacific region, including stints in Japan, Australia, and his current location Singapore. His current beat focuses on automotive. Stephen is an avid folding bicycle rider, often taking his bike on overseas business trips, and a proud dachshund owner.

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