Daimler AG's Smart car business and materials supplier BASF SE recently previewed the new “smart forvision” electric-drive concept car in Sindelfingen, ahead of the full media launch later this month at the IAA 2011 automotive industry fair in Frankfurt.
BASF has been working with Smart engineers for the past two years as their exclusive development partner for the forvision concept car. The car makes extensive use of BASF plastics and other materials, which has lightened the overall design and increased the vehicle's top travel range to around 105 miles.
That's up from a range of 86 miles achieved by Smart's third-generation electric-drive car, which 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.
That option would cut insulation thickness from 2.8 inches to 0.4 inch or 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 GmbH 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 that can be used in full serial production cars. They also lower weight by 6.6 pounds per wheel — or 26.4 pounds for the whole car.
Ludwigshafen, Germany-based BASF's involvement also includes developing and supplying transparent photovoltaic solar cells based on organic dyestuffs absorbed into 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 shells 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 hood, fenders and rear cladding. In previous designs, Smart initially used polycarbonate/polybutylene terephthalate, and now uses poly- propylene.
But Smart will no longer use colored injection molded plastic for those forvision parts for one clear reason — thermal management — so the range of the electric vehicle is kept to the maximum.
That is due to the use of effect paint incorporating infrared reflecting pigments that cannot function within colored panels. Those 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-shaped holes integrated within the hood body panel itself, as part of the overall thermal-management system. The hexagonal structure appears all over the car, from the roof to the interior cladding and seat-cover surface structures.