Ann Arbor, Mich. — Plastics have seen increased opportunities to get onto North American-made cars and trucks as automakers work to improve their fleets' fuel economy. But the real growth lies ahead, when the need to reduce mass from today's cars climbs to 15 percent and higher.
In a new study, the Center for Automotive Research surveyed exactly what went into 44 different 2015 model year cars, then asked what materials carmakers would turn to if they need to cut 5 percent, 10 percent and finally 15 percent of the weight out of key parts.
“If you really have to get lighter weight vehicles, there is a huge shift to composites, and especially carbon fiber,” said Jay Baron, CEO of the Ann Arbor-based research group. “Even in pillars and cross beams and rails.
“In other words, the message to me was: We cannot get to a 15 percent lighter weight car without getting very aggressive with composites.”
The study, conducted with support from nine automakers, was intended to get deep inside individual parts on real cars currently on the road. The automakers, who provided detailed information on their parts on the condition that CAR not disclose the vehicles used in the study, is intended to show what the industry must do to improve vehicle weight without reducing safety or performance.