GUANGZHOU, CHINA — Having played a major role in the development of the Solar Impulse 2, Belgian chemical specialist Solvay Group now is taking its lightweighting innovations to the road, working on the Polimotor 2 all-plastic automotive engine project.
The company made a global announcement of the new project on May 18.
As a main materials supplier, Solvay contributed to more than 6,000 parts on Solar Impulse 2, which has most recently made stops to Chinese cities Chongqing and Nanjing during its unprecedented around-the-world flight.
The Polimotor 2 is a four-cylinder, double-overhead CAM engine scheduled to be tested in a race car next year, and it will ultimately be installed on a Norma M-20 concept car in 2016 for competitive racing in Lime Rock Park, Conn.
The project aims to cut the weight of today's standard production engine (138-148 lbs.) — typically made entirely of metal and the single heaviest part in a car — by 40 percent to just 90 pounds.
Solvay's high-performing thermoplastic materials will replace up to 10 metal engine components, including the water pump, oil pump, water inlet/outlet, throttle body, fuel rail, cam sprockets and more.
Solvay told Plastics News in a May 18 statement that “no OEMs or tier suppliers have signed on as sponsors or collaborators, nor have any of them committed to pursue the technology in commercial vehicle designs.”
However, the company added that the collaborative project will offer automakers “inspiring new options for reducing engine weight, and ultimately lower fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.”
Solvay said it contributed a major role toward the success of the first Polimotor engine, conceived by American engineer Matti Holtzberg in the early 1980s.
Also on May 18, Solvay executives participated in the Chinaplas Media Day event in Guangzhou, and gave an update of the company's China and Asia Pacific investments and expansions.
Solvay's Changshu plant will start Tecnoflon FKM production in the second half of 2015, said Luke Du, senior vice president of Solvay Specialty Polymers and general manager of Greater China and Southeast Asia.
The company also confirmed plans to launch Solef PVDF production in Changchu in 2016.
The Asia Pacific region has already become the largest market for Solvay Specialty Polymers, representing 36 percent of its global sales, surpassing Europe (35 percent) and North America (26 percent). The company operates two production sites in Asia, eight in Europe and nine in North America.
Commenting on that, Du told Plastics News that, “looking at [our China] investment, we didn't take the easy one to do, so it's a very genuine effort by the business to create global capability to do that. We will continue to maintain certain expertise in pockets of the world. We will not intend to reproduce everything all over the world.”