One of the upcoming trends in the automotive industry is the increasing use of advanced plastics and polymer composites. The development of plastic composite intensive cars is a trend for tomorrow that is in development today. The American Chemistry Council, Plastics Division has developed a Plastics and Polymer Composite Technology Roadmap for Automotive Markets.
Automotive Market Pressure
Due to several influential forces in the American automotive market, pressure is increasing for the industry to develop technologies that will create the more efficient use of fuel and meet new environmental and performance requirements. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in conjunction with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency set emissions and miles per gallon standards to more than 50 mpg for the 2025 vehicles. Another factor is an increasing consumer demand for attractive styling combined with affordability. The answer to these requirements can be found in new the manufacturing materials made of plastics and polymer composites, in addition to materials made of high-strength steel and lightweight materials such as aluminum. Weight reduction and strength as well as styling are needs met by the innovative use of plastics and polymer composites, particularly the carbon-fiber-reinforced composites which are 50% lighter than steel, and 30% lighter than aluminum.
While the use of the new materials do satisfy the needs of the future automotive industry, there are, however some issues that must first be addressed. The first, and probably the most important issue, is cost. The carbon-reinforced polymer composites, while meeting the needs of lighter weights for fuel economy and public demand for style, are still quite expensive. Another challenge is that the automotive industry, over the past 100 years, has been geared to revolve around the use of metals. Because of the needs and the challenges associated with them, a roadmap has been established by the the industries involved in manufacturing plastics and polymer composites. Working with the American Chemistry Council Plastics Division, plans are being formed which will result in the recognition that plastics and polymer composites will be the materials of the future in the automotive industry.
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