Lightweight Materials Key to Meeting 2025 CAFE Standards
The Road Ahead: Plastics Suppliers are Key Partners in Advancing Lightweighting Technologies
It’s time to think differently about what plastics can do.
As automakers rush to meet future fuel-efficiency and emissions targets, they need to move their materials selection past conventional steel and into less-dense alternatives. Lightweighting is critically important to helping the industry develop vehicles that will meet the 2025 CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards.
Plastics, and thermoplastic composites in particular, offer automakers and OEMs the ideal balance of lightweight, structural versatility, and crash performance. Even better, as global production of these materials ramps up and their industry adoption rises, costs will inevitably come down.
The auto industry faces serious challenges to meeting U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards, which will require, on an average fleet-wide basis, 163 g/mile or less of CO2 emissions by model year 2025 – which is equivalent to 54.5 mpg (4.3L/100km) if that level is achieved solely through improvements in fuel efficiency.
Significant breakthroughs have been made in engine performance and vehicle electrification in recent years, but getting to the 2025 goals calls for additional innovation.
The challenge going forward is magnified by the fact that only about 4% of vehicles in the 2014 model year production would meet the 2025 targets, and all of those were hybrids, plug-in hybrids, or electric vehicles. Granted, the targets are based on fleetwide production and do not apply to individual vehicles, but the data suggest that improvements are needed across the industry. Building a fleet of conventionally fueled vehicles that meet both the future standards and customer needs will be a challenge. Trimming vehicle weight is a key strategy to help automakers keep pace with the rising regulatory demands.
Materials are core to the lightweighting challenge. Transformational change is needed not only in the materials themselves, but in the ways we work with them. The following areas are important to advance the vehicle lightweighting effort:
- Involve materials suppliers early in the design stage
- Learn what's possible from materials provider experts
- Expand functionality with integrated, multi-material solutions
With its broad and deep materials portfolio and advanced predictive engineering technology, DuPont is helping automakers implement the best lightweighting choices for the road ahead. Improving the materials portfolio is a major focus area for research and development as materials suppliers work to develop new materials that offer better performance and improved cost positions to help meet the needs of our customers.
Every part and vehicle system faces a different set of requirements so there is no silver bullet. The automotive design and engineering community would benefit from more support from advanced materials suppliers to reduce vehicle weight. The most effective approach to solutions involves value-chain collaboration to understand the needs and develop new materials, new designs, new manufacturing methods – or all three.