Polymers – chemical chains made up of many repeating elements – are having a moment. Polymers are the darlings of automotive technology, and for good reason. These chemical chains, often made from carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, sulfur, and even fluorine, are strong, resistant, and versatile.
How are scientists using polymers to make waves in the automotive space? Here are three ways polymers are making good cars better.
- Lighter cars are more efficient cars.
The primary reason advanced materials such as polymers are used to support the body of cars is that they’re lightweight. Polymer composites directly reduce the overall weight of a vehicle, and lighter vehicles move faster with less propulsion energy expended. Reducing a vehicle’s weight by just 10% can lead to a 6-8% improvement in overall fuel economy. Some estimates hold that a combination of high-efficiency engines and lighter-weight body components in just 25% of American cars could save as much as 5,000,000,000 gallons of fuel annually.
- Polymers are making cars less expensive.
The versatility of plastic-based polymers has proven a boon for the automotive industry. Polymers are far less expensive than metal and can be directly injected into molds, reducing manufacturing costs for automakers. Mold-in-color polymers allow for unlimited customization of colors, sheens, and even the addition of chemicals to make the final product scratch- and UV-resistant. Building these capabilities directly into the body of the car reduces the go-to-market steps involved in production, and thus, cost to the end-user.
- Advanced materials make cars safer.
By reducing the weight-load of a vehicle, polymers free up space for enhanced safety technologies such as electronic sensors and additional airbags. Polymers are also renowned for their properties of strength and high-heat tolerance, both of which improve the survivability of accidents. In the field of electric vehicles, polymer materials are being tested as safer, more stable conductors within lithium batteries. As energy systems within hybrid and electric vehicles improve, so too will their overall safety ratings.
Thousands of polymer plastics are regularly used within the automotive industry. From polypropylene to acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, each chemical compound offers something different to today’s vehicle technology.
Noah Technologies is a supplier of high-purity chemicals for automotive applications. For information on our extensive array of products, use our online search platform or contact our in-house chemists today.