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May 3, 2023
2 Min Read
Image courtesy of Lotus
If you’ve seen the all-new Lotus Emira, the dramatic exterior styling probably caught your eye. The sleek exterior of this mid-engine premium sports car is made possible, in part, by the advanced composite exterior panels provided by Teijin Automotive Technologies. Specifically, Teijin is providing the right- and left-hand doors; right- and left-side rear quarter panels; and the inner, outer, and lower shells of the tailgate.
The doors, rear quarter, and tailgate outer panels are manufactured using the company’s proprietary TCA Ultra Lite material. This low-density, Class A surface material is up to 43% lighter than a traditional composite material — approximately the same weight as aluminum. However, because it is a compression-molded composite, it can achieve dramatic styling cues not possible with a stamped metal, and it is dent- and corrosion-resistant. This material is being produced on the company’s state-of-the-art sheet molded compound (SMC) line in Pouancé, France.
Teijin Automotive Technologies’ Ultra Lite uses proprietary treated glass bubbles to replace some of the calcium carbonate (CaCO3), allowing the resin to adhere to the matrix and increase the interfacial strength between the bubble and resin. This treatment technology results in a more robust resin mix that makes molded parts more resistant to handling damage; prevents micro-cracks that cause paint pops, pits, and blistering; and improves paint adhesion and bonding characteristics.
TCA Ultra Lite offers automakers an opportunity to achieve a Class A finish with a material that is resistant to corrosion, dents, and dings, ultimately providing the consumer with a vehicle that doesn't rust and won't be subject to the scratches and imperfections that can mar the surface of any vehicle panel made of metal.
Specific design cues include a sculpted section in the door that leads airflow toward the intake, which is molded into the rear quarter panel. This design serves a dual purpose — providing air intake and cooling for the engine bay.
“The body panels of the Lotus Emira had to satisfy a number of requirements, including aerodynamic design and styling, but also had to be lightweight, strong, and provide a high-quality Class A finish,” said Paul Tedstone, executive director of supply for Lotus Cars. “By using lightweight composites for the body panels, including the doors, we were able to combine all the engineering and styling requirements in the stunning design of this award-winning sports car.”
The inner panels for the tailgate are made from a structural-grade, low-density SMC, featuring a glass fiber content optimized for strength. All outer panels are provided to Lotus with a conductive primer, and the interior tailgate panel is provided with a black texturized coating. All components are manufactured at the Teijin Automotive Technologies facility in Leça do Balio, Portugal.
About the Author(s)
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 is a proud dachshund owner.
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