The American Chemistry Council (ACC, Arlington, Va.) has released the results of a multiyear research project on the use of lightweight composite materials in automotive applications that shows that the material improves fuel efficiency and enhances safety.
ACC says the research shows that reducing vehicle weight by 10 percent delivers a 5 percent reduction in fuel consumption. Even small weight savings can have a large impact on fleet-wide fuel consumption. For example, the ACC says composite fenders on the 2000 dual-wheel C/K Truck from General Motors reduced vehicle weight by 30 lb/14 kg, saving an estimated 5.8 million gal of fuel over the projected life of the fleet.
Safety findings from the ACC’s research reportedly show that composites can improve vehicle rollover resistance and can increase impact-energy absorption by controlling folding, bending and “brooming.” In addition, composites would facilitate improvements in fuel tank design, protection and vehicle efficiency, especially for certain alternative-fueled vehicles.
“The use of composite materials has steadily increased, from about 5 percent of vehicle weight in 1980 to approximately 10 percent today,” says Steve Russell, managing director of ACC’s Plastics Div. “That trend is accelerating as record-high gasoline prices drive automakers to look for new technologies that reduce weight for improved fuel economy. If the use of composite materials continues to grow at this pace, they could account for as much as 50 percent of vehicle weight by 2020.”
For more information on the ACC research report, please visit www.americanchemistry.org.