Plastic engine to debut in Norma M-20 concept car

High-performance thermoplastics replace metal in multiple parts, dropping high-performance engine's weight by 41 kg.

Related Suppliers

CW reported on Matti Holtzberg's development of the Polimotor 2 "plastic engine block" in its CAMX 2014 review (see the section highlighting IDI Composites International, Nobelsville, Ind.). Now Holtzberg — president of Composite Castings (West Palm Beach, FL, US) — is teaming with Solvay (Brussels, Belgium) to build a four-cylinder, double-overhead CAM engine replacing up to 10 metal components – including the water pump, oil pump, water inlet/outlet, throttle body, fuel rail and cam sprockets – with parts made from seven of the material company's high-performing thermoplastics. These include TORLON polyamide-imide (PAI), AMODEL polyphthalamide (PPA), KETASPIRE polyetheretherketone (PEEK), AVASPIRE polyaryletherketone (PAEK), RADEL polyphenylsulfone (PPSU), RYTON polyphenylene sulfide (PPS) and TECNOFLON VPL fluoroelastomers.

The Polimotor 2 engine will ultimately be installed in a Norma M-20 concept car in 2016 to compete at the racing of Lime Rock Park, Connecticut, U.S. Holtzberg's first Polimotor engines were successfully used in an Amoco Chemical Company-sponsored racing car in the 1980s. Since then, he has continued to develop the plastic/composite engine concept, designing and manufacturing carbon fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP) engine components via Composite Castings.

Solvay claims the collaborative project will ultimately set the stage for innovative breakthroughs in future commercial automobiles. While engines are typically metal and the single heaviest part in a car, Polimotor 2 aims to weigh in at 63-67 kg, or about 41 kg less than today’s standard production engine. 

As reported by the Engineer magazine, Holtzberg says the plastic materials used are twice as strong as the cast aluminum exhaust port and combustion chamber. He says he wants to show the automotive industry what is possible, "They will see it racing so they can’t say it doesn’t work.” He adds, "I look back 20 years and if you had told me BMW was going to have a carbon fiber car I would say you were crazy.”