Plastics Enable Vehicle Lightweighting and Greater Fuel Economy

    February 1, 2018

Lightweighting continues to be a major focus of innovation within the automotive industry, especially with the addition of in-vehicle technologies for a wide array of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) that are paving the way toward autonomous vehicles. These connected systems all add weight, which is why it is increasingly important to use Smart Chemistry to remove weight and enable automakers (OEMs) to meet their lightweighting goals for fuel efficiency.

OEMs are now using high-performance plastics throughout the vehicle in interior, exterior and under-the-hood applications. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a 10 percent reduction in vehicle weight can result in a 6 to 8 percent reduction in fuel usage. Extrapolate that over an automaker’s corporate fleet and the weight and fuel savings are exponential.

Most high-performance plastics are engineered for specific mechanical properties, temperature stability, chemical resistance and production quality. For example, using different resins and fibers, and manipulating the properties of the fibers (length, orientation), alters the properties of plastics to offer the same high stress tolerances of steel, which is why plastics are being used inside and outside of the vehicle. Some applications include dashboards, seating components, mirror assemblies, infotainment systems, control clusters, electrical wire insulators, fiber optics, engine and drivetrain components, A-pillars and body panels.

Innovations in high-performance plastics also pave the way for new vehicle structures. For example, the 2019 Dodge Ram pick-up truck sports a front plastic air dam that automatically deploys at 35 mph to provide a boost in fuel efficiency and aerodynamics.

With the proliferation of plastics in today’s vehicles, and the use of a variety of metals and alloys for lightweighting, innovations in joining technologies are imperative to bond these disparate materials. Henkel makes highly flexible gasketing technologies and bonding solutions that make it possible. For example, Loctite 5883 is a seamless liquid bonding application used to seal engine covers, oil pans and electric control covers. The high durability properties of Loctite 5810 B make it especially suitable for use in automotive powertrain assemblies, such as engines and transmissions.

For vehicle interiors, Technomelt® XP 1051 is an adhesive for low surface energy plastics that cures at room temperature, maintains dimensional stability and eliminates the need for surface treatment. It also reduces weight and offers engineers greater design flexibility. For vehicle structures, Henkel offers an array of Loctite and Teroson composite bonding solutions that are designed with specific properties that bond and seal lightweight vehicle structures. These include high-strength adhesion and impact resistance, excellent corrosion resistance, high elasticity, good gap filling and weathering stability.

Advances in high-performance plastics combined with Henkel’s dedication to bringing innovations in Smart Chemistry solutions for adhesive technologies will continue to meet the automotive lightweighting challenge to achieve better fuel economy.

About the Author, Dan Wohletz

Dan Wohletz Vice President, Automotive Components North America Henkel As vice president, automotive components North America, Dan Wohletz is responsible for leading a talented and diverse group of sales, business development, key account managers and engineering experts focused on providing custom solutions to the automotive market. Wohletz joined Henkel as an application engineer in 1991, and over the past 25 years has held various positions of increasing responsibility, including sales, marketing, business management, global strategic planning and new business development, both in the U.S. and Germany. Prior to his current role, Wohletz served as vice president key accounts in NA, where he was responsible for overall sales growth, strategic planning and profitability of the company’s North American OEM and Tier 1 auto supplier accounts. Wohletz earned a bachelor of science from Lawrence Technological University. He is a member of OESA and SAE, and sits on the Global Automotive Manufacturing Council and Cornerstone Schools boards.

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