New plastics and coatings are giving automotive engineers a wealth of options for interior design. These materials offer the promise of additional functionality beyond just decoration or passenger protection.
DETROIT—Fiat Chrysler, Magna Interior Inc., Grupo Antolin and the U.S. Department of Energy have collaborated on a project that reduces the weight of car doors by 42.5 percent without a dramatic increase in cost. Using a holistic approach, engineers looked at the door as a complete system that could integrate everything available on the market today.
DEARBORN, MI—Ford Motor Co. is teaming up with Jose Cuervo to explore the use of the tequila producer’s agave plant byproduct to develop more sustainable bioplastics to employ in Ford vehicles. Ford and Jose Cuervo are testing the bioplastic for use in vehicle interior and exterior components, such as wiring harnesses, HVAC units and storage bins.
DEARBORN, MI—Ford Motor Co. is formulating and testing new foam and plastic components that uses carbon dioxide as feedstock. Formulated with up to 50 percent CO2-based polyols, the new materials could reduce petroleum use by more than 600 million pounds annually.
Back in the day, engines were the exclusive domain of cast iron and steel. But, during the past decade, more lightweight materials, such as aluminum and hard thermoplastics, have been slowly creeping under the hood. The Holy Grail, an engine made almost entirely out of plastic, is finally close to reality.
DETROIT—General Motors is turning its employees’ recycled water bottles into noise-reducing fabric insulation that covers the engine in the Chevrolet Equinox. The bottles—collected from five of its Michigan facilities—are also being turned into air filtration components and insulation for winter coats for the homeless.
WOLFSBURG, Germany—Volkswagen has developed a new, automated process for mass-producing finished thermoplastic exterior car body parts. The technology combines injection molding, physical foaming, and two-component polyurethane injection molding in one complex tool.
LUDWIGSHAFEN, Germany—BASF plans to spend millions of euros to develop new thermoplastic and thermoset composites for lightweight vehicles. The company predicts OEMs can reduce vehicle weight by up to 220 pounds by using short-fiber-reinforced plastics in seats, oil pans, cross beams, air intake manifolds, engine mounts and structural inserts.
Traditionally, using any material other than metal in the engine compartment was unthinkable. But, that old rule of thumb is changing as many automakers and suppliers use plastic to reduce vehicle weight.