The auto industry is getting serious about using plastic composites to reduce weight and improve fuel economy. Every week, it seems, we're seeing stories about automakers and suppliers using or studying ways to use plastics and/or composites to make vehicles lighter. Today the headline came from Ford Motor Co. and Dow, which are teaming up to investigate ways to bring carbon fiber into high-volume auto production. The project is part of Ford's goal of cutting average vehicle weight by 750 pounds. For some additional insight into this issue, check out this video from our sister publication Automotive News. It features Plastics News' own auto industry beat reporter Rhoda Miel. For some additional context, check out these stories on automotive weight savings, all in the past three weeks: Teijin building $7.9 million composites center in Michigan Magna and Zoltek team up on carbon fiber SMC MuCell helps lighten VW Golf instrument panel Partners developing auto parts reinforced with steel When I attended Plastics News' last "Plastics in Lightweight & Electric Vehicles" conference, I was impressed with what the plastics industry people were saying about the potential weight savings they could bring to the table. But at the time, I got the feeling that many automakers felt they could hit aggressive fuel economy goals through other means, like powertrain improvements, and slightly cutting the size of vehicles. Now it's beginning to look like automakers are more serious about the potential of plastics and composites. Is that the result of federal MPG mandates, or consumers who are starting to believe that they're never again going to see $2 per gallon gasoline?
Automakers serious about composites
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