Companies will have to work together closely to meet the aggressive corporate average fuel economy and boost recycled content in cars, speakers from Johnson Controls Inc. and Bayer MaterialScience AG said at the Plastics in Lightweight Vehicles conference.
“You feel like sometimes that everything that needs to be developed has been developed,” said Bruce Benda, who oversees the North American automotive and transportation market for Bayer MaterialScience. That's not the case, now, as government regulations that boost CAFE standards to 54.5 mpg by 2025 will spur innovation.
Fuel efficiency has remained pretty flat since 1980, even though gas prices have gone up 200 percent in that time.
“Fuel economy, cost reduction is a reality for our business,” Benda said. “These are huge challenges that the automakers and their supply base have to deal with.” Benda said automakers will be taking up to 600 pounds of weight out of the average vehicle to help meet CAFE. Ford Motor Co. announced plans to take off up to 750 pounds.
Benda said Bayer's Bayflex polyurethane, reinforced with milled carbon fibers, is finding applications in fenders, where it saves 35 pounds vs. steel fenders.
In another application, Baypreg composite, a PU sandwich structure, can use a core of many different materials, including cardboard.
One key will be new adhesives to link composite and metal parts together, Benda said. “There needs to be new bonding concepts being put together,” he said.
Another speaker, Dan Koester, Johnson Controls' director of new product technology, talked about sustainability and combinations of steel and structural composites. He cited a bioplastic project with Ford to study seven bio-based materials for a door panel, such as polylactic acid and wheat straw.
Koester said JCI's ComfortThin seat uses less plastic, by replacing PU foam with coil springs.
JCI is involved with a German research project called Camisma to combine steel and light alloys with fiber-reinforced composites. One application: a composite car seat backrest. The automotive sector will pursue hybrid, multimaterial parts in the quest to shave off weight, he said.
CAMISMA researchers are trying to use recycled carbon fiber, when possible, and in-situ polymerization, where the monomer polymerizes during the process.
“We're thinking of this as a high-volume solution for the industry,” Koester said.