Low-weight Performance Nylon Fuels Car Efficiency

The Nanpu bridge, connecting Shanghai with the Pudong New Area.
Thousands of cars cross the Nanpu bridge daily between Shanghai and Pudong.

One of the best ways to reduce our fossil fuel dependence is to increase car efficiency through the use of lighter-weight, high-performance moldable automotive plastics instead of heavier metal components. Simply stated: Plastics help make cars lighter. And for every 10% weight reduction, fuel economy improves by 5–7% — saving money at the gas pump and resulting in fewer CO2 emissions. The DuPont Performance Polymers team threw its strength and collective problem-solving might to work on nylon, specifically Zytel® nylon, a DuPont product that had already proven its value in the 1973–74 United States oil shortage, when it was used to reduce vehicle weight in engines, thus increasing gas mileage.

Quick Facts

144 Million gallons of gasoline could be saved over the next year if all newly built engines were using Zytel® PLUS nylon for lightweighting.

In today’s high-efficiency, high-performance engines, pressures are increased, temperatures are hotter, cooling chemicals are harsher, and the entire under-hood package is tighter. But its balance of performance, cost and processing makes DuPont™ Zytel® PLUS nylon an incredibly accommodating material — despite long-term exposure to hot oil and air, impact, road salt, coolant and other chemicals. It’s well-suited for use in air coolers, exhaust mufflers, turbo air ducts, engine covers, oil pans, transmission components, and radiator end tanks, to name only a few applications.

Using Zytel® PLUS nylon to replace metal in targeted applications could eliminate 25 pounds per vehicle. Applied to the 72 million engines scheduled for construction in 2011, that eliminates the need for 144 million gallons of gas. Continuing collaboration like this between materials experts and car manufacturers is key to advancing the use of sustainable materials in the automotive industry. Meeting today’s challenges is only the beginning — as the world’s car-owning population grows, so does the need for efforts like this that help us move toward a more energy-efficient future.


  • CHALLENGE: Energy
  • INDUSTRY: Automotive
  • LOCATION: Detroit, Michigan