Plastic seems to be popping up everywhere nowadays, and the automotive industry is no exception. High performance plastics used in cars are helping shape the future of transportation. We’re going to introduce you to some of the plastics at the forefront of automotive design and innovation.
Polypropylene is used the most frequently of any plastic in automotive manufacturing. Being a thermoplastic polymer, it can easily be formed into almost any shape. It has excellent chemical and heat resistance and is generally resistant to impact.
Given this plastic’s resume, you will frequently find it in car bumpers, gas cans and even the carpet fibers of your car’s interior flooring. It’s also a more economical alternative to expensive plastics of similar strength and durability, which helps drive down the cost of manufacturing.
Polyvinyl Chloride, more commonly known as PVC, is a flame retardant plastic that can be formed into either flexible or rigid components. PVC is another common plastic used in cars thanks to its formability and sleek finish: you’ll often see PVC used for dashboards and automotive body parts.
Like polypropylene, polycarbonate is so resistant to impact that it is often used for car bumpers and headlight lenses.
This kind of car plastic is highly resistant to weathering, able to handle conditions from rain and snow to heat and cold. Polycarbonate is also lightweight, so it reduces a car’s overall weight, which in turn improves vehicle and fuel efficiency.
Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene
ABS sheet is similar to PVC in that the final product offers a sleek finish. Steering wheel covers and dashboards are often made of ABS plastic. It’s also well-suited to heavy-duty applications, so it can be used for automotive body parts, too.
Plastic used in cars, like ABS, helps the body absorb and redistribute energy during an impact, keeping passengers safe.
Back in the day, cars were mostly made of steel and over the decades lightweight alternatives have increasingly found their way into automobile designs. While a car from the 1950s had almost no plastic, the typical automobile today has more than 120 kilograms of plastic. Plastics are a very appealing material for automobiles because their use leads to greater fuel efficiency: It has been determined that every 10 percent drop in vehicle weight equals a 5 percent to 7 percent decrease in fuel usage.
Current economic and ecological concerns make the production of fuel-efficient cars a high priority in the automotive industry. Some other benefits of plastics in vehicles include very little corrosion, extended vehicle life, increased design freedom, greater innovation potential, more versatility in integrating components, greater safety, and greater comfort.