At the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January, chemical company BASF Corp. was also looking ahead at challenges facing materials in an electric and/or autonomous vehicle future.
Dalia Naamani-Goldman, BASF's market segment manager for transportation and performance materials, said she is seeing more and more "electrification of functions" in vehicles, where certain operations like a parking brake that were once mechanical functions are now electric.
"Any time you're moving to electronic components, you need materials that can withstand voltage, that can withstand — in the case of electrification — high-voltage for the potential of flammability," she said during an interview at the auto show, adding that future models of electric vehicles are expected to have 1,000 volts. "You need special materials that can enable each of these components."
With autonomous driving and the introduction of more electric vehicles, components will be smaller and there will be much more of them, said Mark Szendro, BASF's marketing director for transportation and performance materials.
"You will have more radar, lidar and sensors in the vehicle that will definitely support the growth of plastics in each vehicle," he explained.
Naamani-Goldman said she is also seeing an increased need for multifunctional materials that will continue to grow in the long term.
"Right now, there's a lot of metal that's used in a lot of these housings: metal for getting heat out, metal for shielding electromagnetic signals. We're working toward developing polymers that already have some of that functionality built into them," Naamani-Goldman said. "We can use a plastic, and it automatically will get some of the heat out."
For DuPont, the strategy is to group these different types of challenges and look at the kinds of materials that are required to solve them. That means the potential emergence of new materials with improved heat resistance and that are electrically friendly, have good noise-dampening capabilities, are long-lasting and easy to clean, and can be used as a substitution for heavier materials.
"All of this challenging change in hybrid, electric, autonomous driving, shared mobility, is not going to happen without collaboration across different value chains," Toccalino said, highlighting key players such has the OEM, Tier 1, Tier 2 and aftermarket suppliers, as well as other companies in the plastics and electronics industries.
"Essentially, what [DuPont] brings to bear is a set of capabilities that touch different points of the value chain," he said. "The key point is developing new materials and developing them much faster."