Automakers look under the hood for the next lightweighting opportunities

By Kerri Jansen
Staff Reporter

Published: August 20, 2014 1:06 pm ET
Updated: August 20, 2014 1:11 pm ET

Image By: General Motors Co. Plastic and composite parts on the powertrain of General Motors Co.'s Chevrolet Cruze.

Related to this story

Topics Automotive, Sustainability, Materials
Companies & Associations DuPont Co., General Motors Co.

TRAVERSE CITY, MICH. — The automotive industry’s current favorite target for lightweighting efforts is the powertrain, according to a recent survey.

The survey of 880 automotive insiders, from DuPont Co. and

WardsAuto, was released during the Center for Automotive Research’s Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City.

Twenty-four percent of respondents said the engine and transmission are their primary targets for lightweighting, followed by chassis at 12 percent and body-in-white at 11 percent. Body panels tied with electrical and accessories at nine percent.

Jeff Sternberg, director of automotive technology at DuPont, speculates that successful weight reduction efforts in other structures of the vehicle are prompting a new focus under the hood.

“That’s where the opportunity is, right? Powertrain, engine, transmission — there’s just a huge amount of weight there. And, you know, go where the weight is when you’re looking for new opportunities. I think that’s one factor,” he said in a phone interview.

Sternberg also said he sees a growing understanding of and appreciation for how plastics and composites will function in a powertrain setting.

Materials engineers at General Motors Corp. discussed their attention to plastics’ performance in temperature- and chemical-intensive environments in a follow-up phone interview.

GM has already worked to convert many powertrain components to plastics or composites, including broad use in the engine of the Chevrolet Cruze, and uses of composite materials for acoustical treatments inside engine compartments.

Image By: General Motors Co. The Chevrolet Cruze

“We design around 150° [Celsius]; we need our plastics to function in that temperature environment,” said Derek Ewing, from GM’s transmission sector. “Also the plastic has to be resistant to the transmission fluid that it’s constantly exposed to, so chemical resistance and temperature resistance are properties that the plastic must have before we will convert the part to plastic from metal.”

Matt VanDyke, from the engine sector, said he looks to premium materials to provide the necessary properties.

“As power density goes up, temperature is on the rise under hoods, so for composite components on the engine, especially in sealing applications, we’re very conscious of temperature limits as well as limited creep that we would get out of using premium materials rather than everyday nylon,” he said. “We would investigate some of the higher-grade materials to keep the creep low, to have thermal expansion that would be closely matched to its mating component, to ensure that there’s no leaking of any sort of internal fluids.”

For now, the use of plastics isn’t being limited by high-pressure areas, although that could become more of an issue in the future, Matt added.

Ewing said he’s confident plastics and composites will continue to provide the properties needed to stand up in a growing number of under-the-hood applications.

“We are looking at different types of plastics right now, from nylons to PEEK to PPS, and all of these types of plastic materials have really good chemical resistance and temperature resistance,” he said. “Right now we’re working with our material manufacturers and they’re constantly developing better plastic materials as well. ... I see the opportunity for using plastics and developing plastics that will meet our performance requirements as continuous and ongoing and actually getting better, as opposed to reaching a plateau.”


Comments

Automakers look under the hood for the next lightweighting opportunities

By Kerri Jansen
Staff Reporter

Published: August 20, 2014 1:06 pm ET
Updated: August 20, 2014 1:11 pm ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Image

Oxford Polymers adds compounding capacity

January 30, 2015 1:16 pm ET

Materials maker Oxford Polymers has increased its compounding capacity by installing a new single-screw extrusion line.    More

Image

Marval's next generation expands capacity

January 30, 2015 1:27 pm ET

MAMARONECK, N.Y. — There’s a lot of history at Marval Industries Inc., but the 59-year-old compounding firm also is looking toward the...    More

Image

Lubrizol buys Brazil-based coatings technology manufacturer

January 30, 2015 11:50 am ET

Specialty chemicals company Lubrizol Corp. of Wickliffe, Ohio, said it has acquired a Brazilian company that makes coatings technology for products...    More

Image

2014 sees modest sales increase, but profit decrease, for Dow Chemical

January 29, 2015 4:20 pm ET

UPDATED — Dow Chemical Co. delivered modest sales growth in 2014, but the firm's profit took a tumble.    More

Image

Report: Brands are falling short on packaging sustainability

January 29, 2015 5:19 pm ET

Packaging in general, and plastic packaging in particular, has a long way to go in terms of recycling, according to a pair of environmental groups.    More

Market Reports

Plastics in Automotive: Innovation & Emerging Trends

This special report newly released by PN and sponsored by The Conair Group examines current trends in the use of plastics in automotive, materials innovations and the changing landscape. It includes a review of legislative/regulatory activity impacting vehicle development and lightweighting, market opportunities & challenges for mold and toolmakers, innovative design strategies being implemented by major OEMs and suppliers, as well as a review of key indicators in Canada, Mexico, Brazil and China.

Learn more

Plastics Recycling Trends in North America

This report is a review and analysis of the North American Plastics Recycling Industry, including key trends and statistics based on 2013 performance. We examine market environment factors, regulatory issues, industry challenges, key drivers and emerging trends in post-consumer and post-industrial recycling.

Learn more

Injection Molding Market Analysis & Processor Rankings

Plastics News BUNDLED package contains our in-depth Market Analysis of the Injection Molding segment. You will gain keen insight on current trends and our economic outlook.

As a BONUS this includes PN's updated 2014 database of North American Injection Molders RANKED by sales volume. Sort, merge, mail & prospect by end market, materials processed, region, # of plants and more.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

February 4, 2015 - February 6, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

June 2, 2015 - June 3, 2015Plastics Financial Summit - Chicago 2015

September 16, 2015 - September 18, 2015Plastics Caps & Closures - September 2015

More Events