Hutchinson (Paris, France), a subsidiary of Europe's second-biggest oil company Total (Paris, France) is a global supplier of smart solutions in automotive, aerospace and other industries. Working with Total and automaker Peugeot (Paris, France), Hutchinson developed front and rear axles made from composites for the Peugeot 208 FE, a hybrid car which touts acceleration of 0 to 100km/h in 8 seconds, gas mileage of just 1.9 liters per 100 km and CO2 emissions of just 49g/km, a reported world record for a non-rechargeable hybrid.
According to an article in Electric Vehicle News, an overall weight reduction of 20% was the target for achieving such high performance.
"Reducing the weight was a primary area of consideration. To achieve the 20% reduction in the weight of the vehicle we carried out a study part by part and equipped the 208 HYbrid FE with the most innovative materials from Hutchinson, CCP Composites [Paris, France] and Total's Polymers activity," said Philippe Girard, Scientific Department Representative, Total Composite materials. This process is even more virtuous as it does not sacrifice any of the safety and comfort used in the vehicle while introducing real innovations."
Composites replaced steel in bodywork panels and the floor, cutting the body shell weight from 295 to 227kg. The one-piece outer skin — weighing just 20kg — as well as the flat base (8kg), door panels (c2kg) and the lower front panel are all made using carbon fiber. The hood (5kg) and the wings (≈2.1kg) are made from carbon fiber reinforced vinylester resin which reportedly can be used untreated, painted or colour-dyed.
But perhaps the most innovative development is the glass fiber composite axle, which integrates four functions: the suspension (eliminating the need for springs), the wheel guide (eliminating the need for wishbones), roll control and damping of road vibrations and rolling noise. Total's website credits both front and rear axles with an overall weight reduction of 20 kg.
According to an unnamed Hutchinson project manager, "This is consistent with the weight reduction strategy adopted by auto builders to comply with European regulations, which stipulate < 90g CO2/km by 2020, with even stricter requirements to come. In terms of architectural gain, the part is more compact, and our technology enables a one-step assembly process, instead of the usual 12 steps.”
The glass fiber composite transverse blades replace suspension springs, lower wishbones and anti-roll bar. The front blade is also tailored with varying flexibility along its length. The front and rear blades were designed and produced by Hutchinson. On its web-site Total claims that beyond the "technology demonstrator" effect, the Peugeot 208 will positively impact the energy efficiency of production vehicles, with 80-85% of new cars utilizing its solutions.
“At Hutchinson, innovation is part and parcel of the approach. Approaching the design of a composite part by integrating a large number of functions makes the use of composites all the more attractive from the cost viewpoint,” says Bertrand Florentz, director of Hutchinson’s Composites Technical Centre (CTeC).
Opened in 2014, the CTeC also works on other integrated parts to reduce component weight and cycle times. For example, the innovative cockpit developed in collaboration with Airbus, won a 2014 JEC Innovation Award in the Design category. Florentz says a new, even lighter instrument panel will displayed at JEC 2015.
Hutchinson’s innovative composites are also featured in various new aerospace applications, including air-conditioning ducts, insulating wire-bundle brackets and new lightning protection for fuel-tank rivet heads.
Meanwhile, Reuters announced on Feb. 4, 2015 that Total is preparing for the sale or listing of Hutchinson, which could be worth up to $4.6 billion. Total has reportedly asked potential advisers to pitch for the business with a mandate to be awarded soon, as it faces pressure from shareholders to improve its cash flow and protect dividends as oil prices collapse. Sources say Total could either launch an initial public offering (IPO) of the unit or could attract strategic or private equity bidders.
At JEC 2015 (Mar. 10-12, Paris, France), Hutchinson will highlight the composite one-piece, four-function axle and other automotive suspension parts as well as new-generation aerospace air-conditioning duct systems made of thermoplastic composite, and carbon or CFRP fuel lines and CFRP fuel connectors at Stand D.31, Hall 7.3.