Automakers and their suppliers need to explore every possible avenue — from parts redesign and consolidation, to alternative powertrains and materials substitution — to meet the ambitious new mileage targets they've agreed to with the U.S. government. Those regulations call for U.S. corporate average fuel economy, or CAFE, standards to climb to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, up from less than 30 mpg in 2010. Ford Motor Co., for one, has gone on the record saying it wants to lighten cars by 200-700 pounds in the coming years.
This offers a huge opportunity for further penetration of plastics and advanced composites such as carbon fiber into all parts of tomorrow's vehicles. That challenge provides the backdrop for Plastics in Lightweight & Electric Vehicles 2011 — a new conference by Crain Communications Inc.'s Plastics News Global Group that will take place next month in suburban Detroit.
A range of plastics have the potential to help vehicle makers lighten the load not only as a metal replacement in exterior components, but also in frames, interiors, seating and under the hood, and as a glass replacement in glazing. In addition to offering increased styling and design freedom, plastics also will play a key role in tomorrow's environmentally friendly electric and hybrid vehicles, from traditional parts to battery components.
The Nov. 8-9 conference will be preceded Nov. 7 by a pair of concurrent afternoon workshops presented by injection molding machine maker Engel and software provider Sigma Plastic Services.
Conference keynote presenters include:
* Ankil Shah, materials engineering manager for Toyota Engineering & Manufacturing North America, on sustainable mobility, including lightweight material challenges, weight-reduction opportunities and alternative powertrain technologies.
* Jay Baron, president and CEO of the nonprofit Center for Automotive Research, on his group's efforts to coordinate all the industry's multimaterial lightweighting research.
* Jim Tobin, chief marketing officer of Tier 1 supplier Magna International Inc. and president of both Magna Japan and Magna Korea, on lightweighting trends inside and outside the vehicle.
The conference will feature some two-dozen presenters from firms including Ford Motor Co., Faurecia SA, Johnson Controls Inc., International Automotive Com- ponents Group, J.D. Power & Associates, Trexel Inc., Bayer MaterialScience LLC, BASF Corp., Bulk Molding Compounds Inc., Dow Kokam LLC, DuPont Automotive, CPI Binani Inc., Milacron LLC, Lanxess Corp. and Altair Engineering Inc.
The conference, in Livonia, is timed to coincide with the Society of Plastics Engineers Automotive Division's annual Innovation Awards program and banquet, where a number of the technologies mentioned are likely to be highlighted.
The SPE Automotive Division again will host its very international evening event Nov. 9 just five miles from the Plastics News conference.
Last year, the SPE Innovation Awards (speautomotive.com/ inno.htm) attracted some 600 attendees.
SPE members receive a 25 percent discount to attend the PN conference, and PN conference attendees can pay a discounted rate of $150 per person to attend the SPE awards program and also gain entrance to the invitation-only VIP reception that precedes the awards event.
To see the full program or to register for the conference, go to www.autolightweighting.com.
The $100 early-bird discount ends Oct. 14.