Lighter cars mean lighter fuel bills

Carmakers throughout the world are now focusing on lighter, more fuel efficient cars.

And across the world we are now seeing sweeping changes in the way vehicles are made.

Global chemical specialist company LANXESS is a world leader in the high tech plastic technology that is replacing heavier metal parts in vehicles.

LANXESS invented the plastic-metal hybrid technology that carmakers are increasingly
turning to today.

This technology is now being used in more than 40 million cars worldwide for the construction of parts ranging from front-end structures to brake pedals, support brackets to seating.

LANXESS Durethan polyamides are the material of choice for plastic-metal hybrid applications.

“They provide high strength, increased impact resistance and greater rigidity, while reducing the weight of the car, says Milan Vignjevic, general manager LANXESS Asia-Pacific Semi-Crystalline Products business unit.

At its plant at Wuxi, north of Shanghai, in China, LANXESS has also pioneered a hybrid
technology using polyamide composite sheet materials.

“Our engineers were part of the team that designed the hybrid polyamide composite
front-end for the new Audi A8 that meets all requirements related to torsional and flexural strength, says Mr Vignjevic.

The additional stiffness of the plastic-metal composite technology used in the front end of the Audi A8 not only makes the vehicle lighter, but also safer and more comfortable.

For the first time, this hybrid component uses lightweight organic sheets in addition to aluminum.

The lightweight material is used to create a 1.0-mm-thin U-section on the lower beam of the hybrid front end. Compared with its aluminum equivalent, it weighs 20 percent less.

“It is an excellent replacement for steel and aluminium and represents the next generation of automotive front ends,” says Mr Vignjevic.

Making lighter cars is also critical to the success of the electric car market.

China is expected to invest more than A$15 billion in the alternative-energy vehicle industry over the next 10 years.

LANXESS has also developed a wide range of pseudoplastic grades of polymide 6 and 66 for blow-moulded parts in engine air management systems.

They can be processed into products such as air ducts, change-air tubes and clean air lines for turbocharged engines.

As well as providing significant potential for weight reduction and functional integration,
another incentive for using organic sheets in hybrid technology is that metal-free structural components can be produced as pure “plastic designs”. This type of component no longer has to be protected against corrosion and thus generates even more potential savings, while simplifying the bodywork production process.

Organic sheet hybrid technology is not just restricted to use in the front end of a vehicle. It can be used in any part of the bodywork that needs to be strong and absorb a lot of crash energy – like, for example, frame components for panoramic roofs. Another promising field of application could be reinforcing functional modules for doors and hatches with integrated mounts for locks and grips, guides for electric windows and various fasteners.