In this blog series, we examine the challenges facing auto manufacturers—particularly, various regulatory demands—with a focus on meeting CO2 emissions standards. Constructing lighter-weight vehicles is one important way of meeting these standards. New materials, from high-strength steel to polypropylene, along with new engineering approaches for vehicle components, are changing the game. Keep up by understanding the products and materials that will help your company stay competitive.
CO2 emissions are becoming a major determinant of vehicle design, since many regions around the world have passed stringent laws addressing emissions. For example, California’s Low-Emission Vehicle (LEV) program sets aggressive standards for greenhouse gas emissions for new passenger vehicles. Similarly, the EU sets mandatory emission reduction targets for new cars.
Automakers can employ several strategies that lead to lower vehicle CO2 emissions. Better aerodynamics can be brought to auto body design and improvements can be made to power train systems. Rolling resistance can be lowered through tire and pavement design improvements, and the lowered friction translates into less gasoline required to move the vehicle. One of the best approaches for improving CO2 emissions is “lightweighting,” or using lighter materials in vehicle construction. Because it takes less power to accelerate a lighter vehicle, lightweighting can significantly reduce fuel consumption. It is estimated that with a 10 percent reduction in vehicle weight, a vehicle's fuel economy can be improved by 6-8 percent.
Lightening the Load
Replacement of heavy, conventional materials (such as steel and cast iron) is imperative. Fortunately, product manufacturers regularly introduce new, lighter weight materials, such as plastics, composites and metal alloys. It’s been projected that over the course of the next 20 years the percentage of lightweight materials used in vehicles will increase from 29 percent to 67 percent. High strength steel (HSS) and alloys of aluminum and magnesium are expected to be the most used, but carbon fiber and plastic use are expected to almost double. Glass fiber reinforced polymer (GFRP) and carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) will also be more commonly used.
In addition to re-engineering auto body parts, joining the parts with adhesives instead of mechanical fasteners is part of the recipe for success. Structural adhesives are a lighter material than rivets and welding, leading to an overall reduction in vehicle weight along with increased performance over mechanical fastening. Not just any adhesive will do, however. In upcoming installments of this series, look for recommendations and success stories on component engineering and assembly, right down to adhesive choice.
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