SINDELFINGEN, GERMANY (Sept. 1, 3:10 p.m. ET) — Daimler AG's Smart car business and materials supplier BASF SE have given European Plastics News a preview of the new smart forvision electric drive concept car, ahead of the full press launch later this month at the IAA 2011 automotive industry fair in Frankfurt, Germany.
BASF has been working with Smart engineers for the past two years as exclusive development partner for the forvision concept car. The electric drive car makes extensive use of BASF plastics and other materials, which have lightened the overall design and increased the vehicle's top range to around 105 miles.
That's up from a range of 86 miles achieved by Smart's third-generation electric drive car that goes on sale in 2012.
The forvision's traditional Tridion safety cell is now intended to be made by fast curing BASF Baxxodur epoxide resin based carbon fiber-reinforced plastic, instead of metal. Composites are used, with support from its faceted shape, to lighten and strengthen the slim forvision door.
BASF's president of polymer research, Christian Fischer, said the door panels could use high performance plastic foam integrated within aluminum foil-clad vacuum insulated panels (VIPs). This cuts insulation thickness from 7 centimeters to 1 centimeter for the same insulation value.
The car's wheel rims are to be made of two injection molded parts that have already been produced by Hummel Formen in Lenningen, Germany, using BASF's Ultramid Structure 50 percent long glass fiber reinforced nylon 6. BASF claims the plastic rims are the first of their kind to be capable of use in full serial production cars. They also lower weight by 3 kilograms per wheel — or 12 kilograms for the whole car.
BASF's involvement also includes developing and supplying transparent photovoltaic solar cells based on use of organic dyestuffs absorbed onto titanium dioxide. The cells are placed within recesses in the roof of the car, to transmit daylight to the interior and to generate electricity for the radio, rear mounted cooling fans and multimedia equipment.
The company's Steron electric heating fabric, polyurethane foam and “organic sheet” selectively reinforced seat shell solutions are used in the design of the self-supporting forvision seats.
Neither Smart nor BASF specified what types of plastic will be used for the bonnet, fenders and rear cladding, but Smart will no longer use through-colored injection molded plastic for these forvision parts (in previous designs initially PC/PBT, now PP) for one clear reason — thermal management, so the range of the electric vehicle is kept to the maximum. This is due to the use of effect paint incorporating infrared reflecting pigments that cannot function within through-colored panels. These are, of course, most effective with dark colors rather than the white bodywork so far shown on the first model.
At the front of the car, the traditional radiator grille structure has been replaced by hexagonal (honeycomb) shaped holes integrated within the bonnet body panel itself, as part of the overall thermal management system. The hexagonal structure appears all over the car, from the roof, through to the interior cladding and seat cover surface structures.