VEHICLES ARE LOSING WEIGHT
VEHICLES ARE LOSING WEIGHT
Faced with environmental challenges, the automotive industry is forced to restructure itself. Design departments are almost out of the box using new technologies and new developments in materials. Among these, there are many advantages that plastics still have to offer.
The automotive industry, which is a recurring but fascinating subject, is constantly being studied by the economic or technological press as well as the commercial press. Moreover, during the pandemic the world is currently experiencing, automotive industry executives have seen vehicle sales decline to extremely low levels. It is not known whether the coronavirus will halt the R&D work that is currently turning into a race among most automakers, but within a decade, manufacturers have radically changed their vision to produce the car of the future.
For a long time, manufacturers focused on making engines stronger than ever, then less fuel after the oil crises of the 1970s. Electronics widely used to optimize engines led to real reductions in fuel consumption. However, technology had its limits. That’s why the automotive industry decided to put their vehicles on a diet to make them less greedy.
Later automotive giants began to look at and study the materials used and more specifically polymers that were much lighter than the metals originally used to build vehicle interiors. The reviews quickly paid off, and the perceived quality of the plastics became a real value. Rigid plastics have since given way to foamy, silky, granular and smooth plastics. Since then, material manufacturers have continually developed products further, introducing new polymers, some even becoming mandatory. In the 1980s, plastic bumpers became the standard for all brands. Ten years later, the French manufacturer Renault innovated by replacing the metal with polyamide. In the first generations of Clio cars, the fenders were plastic. Also during this decade, manufacturers have begun to address the environmental impact of their models using recycled plastics. These were timid beginnings, as these parts were often inconspicuous or barely visible, such as crankcases, engine protection components, and even door sill plates. Peugeot, another French automaker, brought a different perspective to the competition in 2010 by equipping its 208 with the first bumper made from a recycled polymer.
Today, manufacturers all share the same goal: significantly improving environmental ethics. Since internal combustion engines emit various other particles such as nitrogen oxides, it is not just a matter of reducing CO2 emissions. For this reason, the brands gradually turned their models into electrical energy while continuing to reduce their weight. Electric and hybrid vehicles account for around 6% of all sales in Europe today, and this figure has been increasing for the past three years. However, there are still obstacles to overcome. Drivers are still worried that they will not be able to use their cars for long journeys. And rightly so, although the network of charging stations is growing steadily, they are still quite a few. Above all, charging takes at least 30 minutes while filling a car with gasoline takes very short. Therefore, manufacturers have made it a priority to make every effort to increase the autonomy of their electric models. Batteries are very heavy and take up a lot of space, so keeping a few batteries is impossible. History repeats itself, and manufacturers are once again studying the materials used to make their cars lighter. What applies to gasoline also applies to electricity: the lighter a vehicle is, the less it consumes and the less power it takes to move.