There are an almost infinite number of areas of application for polymer materials. Made from plastics, individual parts such as valve caps, air filters and air intake pipes can be integrated into one unit. Formerly made from metal, today’s air intake pipes and fuel tanks are almost entirely made from plastics: they are non-corrosive and easier to mount, while also saving between 40’% and 50% in weight. Plastics have also taken the place of glass in modern automotive engineering. Modern headlights, rear lights and even rear and side windows are made of plastics.
A modern mid-range car with a weight of about 1,000 kg contains about 15%, i.e. 150 kg, of plastic material: car body parts such as spoilers and bumpers, instrument panels and headlights are made from plastics, as are side trim and interior trim, seats and airbags, carpets, tires, seals and gaskets, fan belts, gearbox mountings, engine covers and many small components.
There are a variety of other ways in which cars can improve their environmental performance. One example is hybrid vehicles, which partly thanks to plastics, combine a traditional petrol engine with an electric battery. Car manufacturer BMW has developed a car powered by hydrogen fuel cells, which produce no emissions whatsoever.
In conventional vehicle design, metal and plastics were generally treated as opposing materials, one excluding the use of the other. The future, however, belongs to hybrid technology, which uses the benefits of combining both materials in one unit. This approach increases the sturdiness and strength of the products and additional features can be integrated easier andin a more compact manner. This way, the weight of the finished product is about 40% less than that of a pure metal construction!