Lighter, greener cars on the way

Escalating prosperity in China is leading to an increasing demand for automotive mobility, and a focus on more sustainable vehicles.

Martin Kraemer, CEO of Greater China with Lanxess, a global leader in specialty chemicals, points out that China is now the biggest automobile market in the world and that the Chinese government has set ambitious goals to promote energy conservation and efficient utilisation of resources.

"Government targets include a reduction in CO2 emissions per unit of GDP of 40 to 45%, and five million electric vehicles are expected on the road by 2020. In particular, by reducing the weight of vehicles, electric mobility can be made more practical," Kraemer said.

"We have developed Durethan and Pocan high-tech plastics to allow designers to reduce the weight of vehicles, and a plastic-metal hybrid technology to replace metal in car parts.

"Other innovations include the development of rubber to make ‘green tyres’ that reduce rolling resistance and provide fuel savings of up to 7%."

According to Kraemer, the rolling resistance of tyres is an important issue in China and there are plans to significantly increase the percentage of high performance tyres on the road.

"In Europe, tyre labelling will soon be mandatory to show the extent that tyres contribute to the fuel consumption, safety and noise emission of the car, and this could also be introduced in China," he said.

Composite sheet hybrid

According to Dr. Christof Krogmann, Lanxess’s VP Asia-Pacific for Semi- Crystalline Products, innovative polyamide composite sheet hybrid technology is an ideal alternative to metal or carbon fibre thermosets.

"We see enormous potential for polyamide composite sheet hybrid technology in concepts for Green Mobility, such as electric vehicles. It makes cars lighter, yet still offers sufficiently high strength," he said.

"Possible applications include engine bearings, door structures, pedals, front ends, and seat cross members. The world’s first brake pedals made of polyamide reduce weight by 50%, while the weight of airbag housing is cut by more than 30% and sidewall thickness is reduced to less than 1mm.

"There is also a trend to smaller turbo charged engines with less weight but more power that run at higher temperatures and require heat resistant plastics. We have developed a wide range of pseudoplastic polyamide grades for blow-molded parts in engine air-management systems.

"Advanced polyamide technology is one of the keys to smaller, more efficient and more powerful engines. By replacing metal components, products such as Durethan and Pocan make cars lighter, and thus contribute to fuel efficiency and reduce emissions.

"In addition, these advanced products enable carmakers and car parts suppliers to achieve considerable savings through easier assembly," Krogmann said.

The company is also developing non-toxic chemicals for automotive parts, including Macrolex dyes to colour parts such as taillights and signal lights, thereby avoiding the use of heavy metals.

The company also has a strong focus on biodegradability with development of the third generation of biopolymers, which involves a shift towards bio-based raw materials.