Light Weight Automotive Materials Boost Fuel Economy

DuPont Automotive North America Development Director Mike Day shares new ways plastics and composites can help the industry improve fuel economy without compromising power.

More than a third of the fuel consumption in a fossil fuel-powered vehicle is dependent on mass, according to OEM data. Today, DuPont Automotive estimates that plastics under the hood account for about 16 percent of a vehicle’s weight, on the way to 25 percent over the next five years.

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“Plastics and composites will continue to be ‘go-to’ materials to reduce weight in engines, transmissions, drivelines and chassis,” said Day. “While plastics have replaced metals in many applications, there are still opportunities as the range of high heat, chemical- and moisture-resistant materials have grown exponentially during the past few years.”

DuPont last year launched more than 1,700 new products and invested 22 percent of its $1.7 billion R&D budget on developing new chemistry and materials to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

“We are heading in the right direction, but still the portfolio needs to be augmented to meet next-generation lightweighting challenges,” Day said. He was referring to a survey conducted with WardsAuto where only 25 percent of more than 1,000 vehicle engineers polled said they are confident or very confident they can meet CAFE (corporate average fuel economy) standards with the existing materials portfolio.

Stepping up to the challenge, DuPont this year invested in new collaboration centers in India, Korea and China to complement the existing facilities in North and South America, Europe and Japan. “This is exactly the right time to bring our science-powered innovation closer to the market and provide the critical connections that can link the value chain globally in ways that help advance materials,” said Day.