Automakers Turn to Composites to Reach Their Fuel and Emissions Goals

Reducing harmful carbon emissions has become a mission for nations all over the world as governments from the United States, China, Japan, and within the European Union have enacted guidelines designed to curb carbon output. Recent laws raising fuel efficiency standards have spurred car manufacturers to research ways into improving the number of miles per gallon their vehicles can achieve. In order to comply with the Company Average Fuel Economy of 50 mpg by 2025 established in the US, and Europe’s restrictive vehicle emissions requirements, automotive companies have set their sights on next-generation composites.[1]

Why Composites?

Composites are created by combining two or more dissimilar materials in order to take advantage of the best properties of each or impart beneficial characteristics that neither could achieve separately. While traditional vehicles have relied on steel or aluminum parts due to their durability, today’s car manufacturers have turned to composites such as carbon fiber reinforced polymers. Not only does carbon fiber wield similar strength as their metal counterparts, but they also have the added benefit of being dramatically lighter. A 10% weight reduction translates to a 7% improvement in fuel efficiency.[2] By reducing the weight of vehicles, automakers can get more mileage from combustion engines and reach the higher fuel standards demanded by regulators.

Upward Trends

Market forecasters predict a 10-year compounded annual growth rate of 6.5% for composite fiber used in the automotive sector.[3] Carmakers are expected to not only utilize composites in the structural body of vehicles but in interior and exterior parts as well. Composites make great replacements for heavy metallic underhood parts, and market watchers expect the surging preference for composites in powertrain components of luxury vehicles and sports cars to positively influence demand for the material. Whether its glass fiber used in panels or thermoplastics integrated into wheels, automotive companies are already embracing composites to make lighter vehicles, a trend that is only expected to continue upward.

Composites and EVs

Electric vehicles do a lot of heavy lifting in helping carmakers reach their average fuel economy goals, with brands like Volkswagen integrating composites in the design of their new EVs. The VW e-Golf available in 2018 has a battery tray composed of glass fibers embedded in polypropylene. This tray is 35% lighter and 30% cheaper than similar aluminum trays and can be constructed in only a minute.[4] Not to be outdone, BMW has pioneered a carbon fiber passenger cell for its all-electric i3 vehicle.[5] In addition to having lightweight composites feature high tensile strength, impact resistance, abrasion resistance, and chemical resistance, automakers are leveraging to make electric vehicles even more attractive to today’s consumer.

Welformed is a leader in the manufacturing of composites solutions serving a variety of industries. If you are in the secondary automotive industry, consider partnering with Welformed for high-quality, customizable and lightweight parts, as well as dedicated service and competitive prices. Contact us online to discover more about our offerings.