[ Plastics may have sponsored the breakfast before the annual green car at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November 2016 . The following is a speech by Keith Christman , general manager of ACC Plastics . ]
The annual Green Car Awards celebration is a good time to highlight how plastics have made many innovations possible for more environmentally friendly cars.
Plastic manufacturers work with the entire automotive value chain to help create lighter vehicles, improve fuel efficiency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and provide more sustainable solutions today and in the future.
Fuel economy challenges and solutions
By 2025 , automakers must achieve a corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standard of 54.5 miles per gallon . To meet these standards, automakers are increasingly turning to strong, lightweight plastics and composite materials to reduce weight. In fact, today light plastics account for at least 50% of vehicles , but only 10% of their weight . A 10% weight reduction can result in a 6-8% increase in fuel economy .
What does it mean to increase the use of lightweight plastics in vehicles ? To put it simply: the environmental footprint is lighter. The consulting company Trucost conducts environmental research on many groups including the United Nations Environment Programme. Trucost recently compared the environmental " cost " of using plastics to the environmental cost of using other materials. These costs come from various environmental impacts, such as energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, materials and resources used, manufacturing, use ( driving ) and disposal or recycling.
Trucost found that 2015 passenger cars using plastic in North America :
Resulted in savings of $ 2.4 billion in environmental costs ;
Resulted in an environmental cost savings of $ 162 per vehicle ; and
Over the life of these vehicles, 89 million gallons of gasoline and diesel were saved .
Why is the environmental cost of plastics lower ? To a large extent, because light heavy vehicles consume energy every mile over their entire service life. Using less fuel can reduce emissions and cleaner air for all of us. These savings can be multiplied globally.
Sustainability, in addition: safety, style, affordable
Automakers are achieving their sustainability goals while providing safe, stylish and affordable vehicles that American consumers want to buy.
Plastics have implemented a variety of safety functions, such as seat belts, airbags, crease areas - and even newer pedestrian-friendly functions, such as impact-absorbing bumpers and external airbags.
The future: improving sustainability, innovation and plastics
So, what are the prospects for the future development of the automotive industry and advanced plastics ?
According to government estimates, fuel economy standards by 2025 are unlikely to push electric and fuel cell vehicles into the mainstream. Gasoline drive technology is expected to be more cost-effective for automakers and consumers in the foreseeable future - meaning automakers will continue to rely on advanced lightweight materials to reduce the quality of vehicles required to meet fuel economy standards .
As the demand for lightweighting accelerates, it is expected that CFRP will become more common in mainstream cars, which will also enhance safety.
3-D printing can change the way we build and repair cars. Car manufacturers are already using 3D printing for rapid prototyping to help cars get to market faster and to quickly manufacture tools for building cars. 3-D printed car concept cars are already under construction, and racing cars are building 3-D printed cars that meet government safety standards and consumer performance expectations . It is expected that plastics and composite materials will become the first choice for 3-D printing vehicles.
Some automakers expect to use 3-D printing in widely distributed, smaller manufacturing facilities that are far less likely to manufacture cars than parts. 3-D printing may also allow replacement parts to be printed at local repair shops. Some automakers point to the future of rapid customization and personalization of cars: from unique design, computer modeling to construction ( printing ) in days, not years. This new manufacturing model may also lead to further improvement in sustainability.
The angle that autonomous vehicles are realizing. These vehicles will need to be light and safe, which will continue to shape the plastic trend. The Federal Security Administration may need to increase the safety measures of autonomous vehicles, which may result in the addition of airbags, cushions, folding areas, etc. Many of these autonomous vehicles are expected to have heavier alternative transmission systems, which will require lighter weight in other parts of the vehicle. In other words: more plastic.
Improve fuel economy and enhance safety innovation design. 3-D printing car. These trends in autonomous vehicles are constantly changing the way cars are manufactured and their performance.
Plastics will also continue to make it possible.