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April 18, 2016

3 Min Read
Fuel cell vehicle made lighter through hybrid-molded rear bumper beam

A lightweighting solution from German firm Lanxess has been deployed in the Honda Clarity Fuel Cell vehicle results in an approximately 50 percent weight reduction compared to the metal solution and a significant streamlining of the production process. The second-generation Clarity fuel cell vehicle (FCV) debuted in March this year at the New York Motor Show. Retail leasing to customers in select California markets is due to start before the end of 2016 at around $500 per month.

Second-generation Honda FCV features 50% lighter rear bumper beam versus metal variant.

A hydrogen filling station in Tokyo, Japan. Business is not exactly booming as yet.

Combining Tepex continuous- and long-fiber reinforced thermoplastic composites with polyamide (PA) 6 matrix from Lanxess subsidiary Bond-Laminates with Durethan PA 6 injection molding grade from Lanxess, Honda has introduced the world-first hybrid-molded rear bumper beam in the model using one-shot molding technology developed by Lanxess. In this process, semi-finished composite sheets are formed and overmolded in the same injection tool

The process can be employed for molding large components out of its plastic and glass fiber composite results with approximately 50 percent weight reductions delivered compared to metal solutions and a significant streamlining of the production process to boot.

“With this application, we not only realized the first rear bumper beam made out of Tepex and Durethan material, we also have the first serial automotive production in the Asia Pacific region for our composite material Tepex,” says Deniz Guerkan, Manager Technical Marketing and Business Development Tepex Auto in the High Performance Materials business unit at Lanxess Hong Kong Limited.

The composite components consist of several layers of Tepex dynalite continuous long glass fiber-reinforced thermoplastic composite sheets and Tepex flowcore random long glass fiber-reinforced composite sheets. This combination enables facile material flow in the molding process to fill out complicated part geometry, and a greater mechanical strength with a superior characteristic of dynamic energy absorption in such a critical application as a rear bumper beam.

Further, through its HiAnt custom-made services for lightweight design, Lanxess provides automakers and parts suppliers with property testing services. Lanxess also supports the development all the way to mass-production. Series production of the Honda rear bumper beam is carried out by Takagi Seiko Co., a leading plastic parts manufacturer in Japan. Sunwa Trading, Lanxess’ distributor for Tepex composite sheets in Japan with long experience in composites, further assisted the development process.

Tepex is a light yet strong state-of-the-art composite material made from a thermoplastic matrix and continuous fiber reinforcements such as carbon or glass. As one of Lanxess’ lightweight solutions, it is used globally for automobile structural components such as front ends and seat shells, as well as in numerous mass-produced items like smartphones and sporting goods.

Tepex boasts cycle times of around 15 to 60 seconds and is light enough to reduce component weight by more than 50 percent. The result for automobile applications is better gas mileage and fewer CO2 emissions.

Hydrogen refueling infrastructure is a key to proliferation of FCVs and Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) recently unveiled a revised roadmap for rollout of infrastructure and FCVs in Japan. The Strategic Roadmap for Hydrogen and Fuel Cells, which was initially formulated in June 2014 by the Council for a Strategy for Hydrogen and Fuel Cells, was revised on March 22 and describes new goals and specific explanations of efforts to be made.

The roadmap targets about 40,000 FCVs on its roads by 2020, about 200,000 by 2025, and about 800,000 vehicles by 2030. These will be served by a hydrogen filling station network of about 160 stations by 2020 and about 320 stations by 2025.

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