In today’s context, European regulations aim to reduce the amount of materials used in manufacturing processes as a way to decrease CO2 emissions and minimize environmental damage. One of the major sectors affected by these regulations is the automotive industry, which is increasingly striving to create efficient vehicles without incurring significant losses.
One strategy adopted by automotive companies is designing lighter vehicles using fewer materials. To achieve this, they are exploring the development and use of alternative, strong, and durable materials, including various types of plastics. In the following article, we provide detailed insights into the most commonly used materials for creating lighter and environmentally-friendly cars.
How much does a light car weigh?
First and foremost, it’s essential to understand that the weight of a lightweight car depends on several factors, including size, vehicle type, and the materials used in its manufacturing. However, the general process that companies follow to make their cars lighter is essentially the same.
The process begins with the smaller and more aesthetic parts. This is because it’s much simpler to evaluate which components can be made from lighter or hollow materials while still meeting cost and quality requirements.
Now, as mentioned earlier, plastic is one of the most commonly used alternative materials. This is because many of its varieties offer a great balance of weight and strength, as well as being more cost-effective. Among the lightweight plastic types are:
Polypropylene is a highly flexible thermoplastic that’s resistant to fatigue, heat, and impacts. It’s primarily used in exterior parts and accessories for automobiles. It’s commonly chosen for components that require both toughness and a lightweight structure. Its density, around 0.9 g/cm3, makes it one of the lightest materials.
What’s remarkable about this material is that methods have been developed to make it even lighter. One approach involves using high-performance reinforcements like Hyperform HPR-803, rather than chopped fiberglass. This can make the material up to 15% lighter while also increasing its rigidity and impact resistance.
Due to its mechanical properties, polyethylene is quite similar to polypropylene. It has a density of 0.92 to 0.97 g/cm3, making it slightly heavier than polypropylene. However, it’s stiffer and offers resistance to deformation. It’s commonly used to manufacture parts that require high chemical resistance, such as fuel tanks, hoses, and even carpets.
With a density ranging from 1.04 to 1.07 g/cm3, ABS is one of the lighter and more robust plastics used today. It’s a thermoplastic known for its toughness and impressive impact resistance.
ABS plastic is employed as a means to reduce weight in modern vehicles, being incorporated into parts like grilles, fender extensions, hubcaps, door panels, front panels, rear bumpers, and more. Thanks to its lightweight nature and exceptional strength, ABS was used to manufacture the world’s first 3D-printed car, which weighed less than 500 kg in total.
Which materials work best for automotive applications?
The plastics we’ve mentioned are some of the lighter and commonly used ones in the automotive industry, thanks to their composition and various properties. However, other plastics are also employed in car manufacturing, such as:
Polycarbonate is a thermoformable plastic that’s easily molded, known for its extremely high impact resistance and glass-like transparency. It boasts impact resistance that’s 250 times greater than regular glass, making it a common choice for manufacturing headlight lenses and even bulletproof glass. It’s also used in electronics to produce touch panels with integrated circuits. Its versatility and exceptional properties make it a valuable material in various industries, including automotive and electronics.
This refers to a plastic reinforced with either mineral or glass fibers, which enhances its mechanical properties and makes it stiffer without significantly increasing its weight. It’s highly wear-resistant, making it a preferred material for manufacturing gears, bearings, bearings, and even manifolds. The best part is that it weighs only 15% of what steel weighs and 40% of what aluminum weighs.
Achieving weight reduction in cars today can be a real challenge for the automotive industry. However, by using materials like those mentioned earlier, along with innovative molding techniques, achieving the sought-after sustainable design is possible. That’s precisely what we do at Walter Pack. Through injection, plastronics, and prototyping techniques, we can manufacture parts for smart, functional, and decorative cars. Feel free to reach out to us to learn how we can help turn your dreams into reality.