Leading automotive companies are striving for light-weighting, fuel efficiency and emissions reduction, says a new report from Visiongain (London, U.K.), entitled "Growth in the Automotive Composites Market" (http://www.visiongain.com/Report/1201/Automotive-Composites-Market-Forecast-2014-2024). This growth is mainly driven by four factors. First, the constant demand for lower-weight, fuel-efficient vehicles, which reduces running costs and fuel consumption, has resulted in the penetration of composites into the automotive sector due to their lightness and stiffness. Secondly, environmental regulations for low carbon dioxide emissions and fuel efficiency in the EU and the U.S. dictate more fuel-efficient vehicles from 2015 onwards. In the EU, the 2020 target for fleet average carbon emissions aims to reduce the average vehicle emission by 40 percent compared to 2007. In the U.S., even higher Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFÉ) standards are requiring automakers to raise the average fuel efficiency of new cars and trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. The CAFÉ program aims to improve fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions which will result in saving more than $1.7 trillion at the gas pump and the reduction of U.S. oil consumption by 12 billion barrels. Automakers have responded to the low emission regulations with the reduction of the vehicle's weight with the usage of composite components, as well as downsizing engines in the low and medium segment.
Thirdly, the increased demand for electric and hybrid vehicles, in which composites' usage for light-weighting is key, has turned automakers' focus to composite materials as a substitute for heavier steel and iron in all types of vehicles. Fourthly, the introduction of new models with more varied and extensive usage of composites in the period 2015-2020 will reportedly substantially increase the production of composites for automotive pplications.
On the other hand, the high cost of some composites, especially carbon fiber, and difficulties in repairing and recycling, prevent their penetration into the high-volume medium and low-end car segments where cost is of essence. Additionally, the current low-volume production due to existing production techniques and a lack of general engineering experience results in a higher manufacturing cycle and prevents investments from automotive manufacturers. Last but not least, the strong position of steel companies in the automotive sector as the main suppliers of car body, engine and drivetrain materials, in conjuction with existing heavy investment from auto manufacturers into metal production lines, prevents the easy substitution of metal with composites.
Visiongain's report assesses reduction of composite materials price due to higher volume and economies of scale, the introduction of recycling and repairing processes from the increased engineering experience, accompanied with the improvement of the economic climate, which will enable further investments to enable growth and overcome restraints.
Editor PickGardner Business Index at 54.1 in January
The US composites industry looks as strong as it has since early 2015, with expectations the highest in years.