In the past few years, China's automakers have thrown themselves into developing electric vehicles. According to Du Cao, vice president and director of Chang'an Automobile Group Co. Ltd.'s global research and development center, their interest in alternative-energy vehicles is driving demand for new plastics applications in the country.
“[In China] we've set a very high standard for environmental protection,” said Cao. “Everyone is working on hybrid and new-energy vehicles; all the car manufacturers are researching this.”
Cao was speaking April 17 during the China Plastics in Automotive conference in Shanghai, sponsored by Plastics News. Chang'an is China's third-largest automaker.
The push for electric vehicles is not motivated by environmental protection alone, said Cao. China is also concerned with reducing fuel consumption to cut its dependence on imported oil. “Reliance on foreign countries is quite high in terms of energy supply,” said Cao. “So new energy is going to be the future trend.”
China has set a target for cars to achieve about 52 miles per gallon by the year 2020. To do this, automakers must work on alternative energy sources and reducing vehicle weight.
According to Cao, weight has become the most significant issue for carmakers in China. In hybrid vehicles, for example, weight needs to be reduced 30-40 percent. At the same time, the addition of batteries to vehicles will add weight, increasing the need to reduce weight in other parts of the vehicle.
Chang'an is aiming to integrate parts that are now made separately — a money-saving process that can also be aided by plastics. “We aim to integrate more than 10 of the parts into one simple platform,” he said.