The cost of fuel price has always been a cause to worry, prompting consumers and legislators to demand improvements in vehicle fuel efficiency, as evidenced by proposed new US federal fuel economy standards for SUVs, pickups, and minivans. This is making auto manufacturers and their suppliers to search for weight and energy saving materials and processes.
Also, owing to the growing demand, auto manufacturers are eyeing plastic due its useful properties like less weight, and good durability. According to the American Plastics Council sources, plastics, which offer high performance and durability, as well as lighter weight compared to steel, aluminium, and glass, may help to bring down fuel consumption.
"For every 10 per cent reduction in the weight of a vehicle gas mileage (fuel efficiency) increases by seven per cent", say Council sources. The use of plastics in bumpers, body panels, lighting, fuel tanks, and other components has helped to reduce total vehicle weight up to a whopping 200 pounds in some vehicles. GE Plastics has already started lending help to automakers to improve fuel efficiency with innovative, high-performance materials. This method is bound to reduce vehicle weight by replacing traditional metal, glass, and wiring systems. According to Mark Kingsiey, general manager of Global Marketing, GE Plastics, Automotive, "GE supplies high-performance plastics and compounds that are used by more than 20 OEMs worldwide, including Ford, GM, DaimlerChrysler, Opel, Nissan, and BMW brands. One of the main reasons why automotive manufacturers can use GE`s materials is to promote better fuel efficiency.
Through our "ecomagination" initiative, we`re constantly looking for new ways to help fuel economy -among other environmentally responsible efforts-and are confident that, with best-practice engineering, we could drop a vehicle`s weight by up to 25 to 50 pounds, potentially saving consumers around the world up to 25 million gallons (95 million litres) a year."
Recently, GE has introduced a wide range of thermoplastic resins and compounds as lightweight alternatives to metals, wire/cable systems and glass. In case of wire- and cable-coating for auto electrical systems, GE`s Flexible Noryl resin allows ultra-thin coatings compared to conventional materials that help reduce overall wire bundle size by up to 25 per cent for lower weight and mass. If Under-the-hood vehicle components, like electronic throttle bodies are constructed from GE`s heat-resistant Ultem resin grades, it may weigh up to 50 per cent less, giving the vehicle required shape and size. Glass replacement with GE`s Lexan polycarbonate resin can lighten the automotive load by up to 50 per cent while providing parts integration, excellent aesthetics and transparency, and weather-resistance. GE`s high-tech LNP specialty compounds offer lightweight alternatives to a wide array of metal components, as well as a diversity of customized performance qualities for specialized applications. Using GE`s Noryl GTX resin instead of steel for fenders and tailgates may reduce the weight of these parts by 40 per cent and provide styling freedom and high impact resistance.
In additions, GE offers lexan SLX resin, which is low-weight, paint-free, and a good option (as it is environmentally responsible) compared to painted metal on automotive body panels. Besides this, the company also provides a range of other lightweight plastic options to metal for wiper systems machined brackets, trans-mission components, fuel systems, valve covers, thermostat housings, compressor housings, and die-cast or machined parts. The same applies for other popular vehicles. For example, GE`s Cycoloy CE1820 extrusion-grade resin used in the design of the Winnebago View and Itasca Navion motor homes can raise fuel efficiency by reducing part weight by up to 17 per cent. Nine electric vehicles called COMS out of the many vehicles patrolling the exposition grounds of the 2005 World Exposition held at Aichi, Japan, featured windshields constructed from GE`s tough, virtually unbreakable Lexan GLX polycarbonate (PC) resin and coated with advanced Exatec 900 glazing. Supplied by Toyota Auto Body to deliver first aid and security to the event`s expected 15 million visitors, the Exatec 900 glazing system is the fruitful work of a joint venture between GE and Bayer and is a highly weatherable, lightweight glazing materials solution. In addition to providing outstanding impact strength and resistance to chemicals and abrasion, the material enables far greater design flexibility versus glass for automotive OEMs to incorporate high-performance functionality and aesthetics into automotive windows.