Menu handler

Advanced materials: The future of car manufacturing.

Car manufacturing has undergone constant change over the years to adapt to a changing world. The process of e volvement in the automotive sector is not stopping – there are constantly new challenges and circumstances that car manufacturers are trying to meet. The dynamic nature of this segment of the global market is perfectly illustrated by the changes that are taking place in the area of materials used in cars. One of the main trends we can observe is the desire to create vehicles based on lightweight yet durable components. There is also a strong emphasis on recyclates and renewable materials in the choice of materials for cars.

As mankind, we are increasingly aware of the seriousness of the problem of environmental pollution. Car manufacturing has therefore naturally become another area where specialists are trying to find the “golden mean” between ecology and carbon footprint reduction and the economy, durability and safety of manufactured solutions. For this reason, a great deal of attention is being paid to the search for and development of modern materials, the qualities of which will result in functional, more efficient vehicles with lower fuel consumption and a reduced negative impact on the planet and the state of natural resources. Areas intensively explored by car manufacturers include lightweight materials that enable the weight of a car to be reduced while maintaining its other key properties, as well as renewable materials and recyclates, i.e. raw materials recovered from the recycling of plastics. 

What innovative materials represent the future of car manufacturing? 

Car manufacturers wishing to implement environmentally friendly production standards in their plants must follow the principles of eco-design and circular design. According to these, car manufacturing should aim to reduce the environmental cost of vehicles by, among other things 

  • reducing their weight, 
  • the use of recyclates and renewable materials in their manufacture. 

Car manufacturers are working intensively on innovative materials that can prove themselves in the vehicle manufacturing process, while also meeting the relevant criteria. One aspect that receives particular attention in the search for new materials for car manufacturing is their lightness. At the same time, they should be able to meet other requirements, such as durability or optimal manufacturing costs. 

In the context of caring for the well-being of the environment and reducing the overexploitation of primary raw materials, increasing the proportion of recyclates and renewable materials in car manufacturing plays an even more important role. This is reflected in the regulations that car companies are subject to, which oblige them to include recycled materials in the design of their vehicles. This is intended to lead to more sustainable car manufacturing, a reduction in the amount of waste generated and greater independence of the automotive sector from the need to source virgin raw materials. 

Modern car manufacturing – why are we aiming to reduce the weight of cars? 

When we delve into how car production is changing around the world, we can see some interesting trends. The first trend is that the cars hitting the market are getting bigger and bigger. If we compare, for example, current B-class cars with their counterparts from a few decades ago, we can see that the size of many contemporary representatives of this segment exceeds that of similar older vehicles. Another process, which can be easily observed, is the expansion of car equipment. Air-conditioning or advanced safety systems have become a standard that was not commonplace just a dozen or so years ago. What is particularly interesting, however, is that modern car manufacturing is moving towards increasing the size of cars and extending their equipment, while at the same time placing increasing emphasis on reducing their weight while maintaining an appropriate level of other parameters. What are the reasons for this phenomenon? 

Let's talk about your project


The primary reason why companies seek to ensure that their car manufacturing process incorporates the use of modern, lightweight materials is practical. The increase in vehicle weight, a consequence of, among other things, the aforementioned factors related to the size and equipment of today’s cars, has a number of negative consequences. These include: 

  • a drop in fuel efficiency, or in simplest terms, higher combustion, 
  • increased emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants into the atmosphere, 
  • a reduction in car performance

So, in a bid to achieve better performance and fuel efficiency while reducing harmful exhaust emissions, manufacturers are seeking to reduce the weight of the cars they produce. This involves looking for new, lighter materials that can be used to produce components with similar or even better properties than their traditional, heavier counterparts

What modern materials are used to reduce vehicle weight? 

Replacing heavier materials with lighter ones is not new in car manufacturing. This trend has been evident for years, as evidenced by the increasing use of plastics and composite materials in the vehicle manufacturing process. An important challenge facing automotive companies planning the design of a car and its subsequent production is finding the right balance between reducing the weight of the vehicle and maintaining its key properties. 

The scale of the difficulty of this task can be well illustrated by the properties of steel and aluminium alloys used in automotive construction. The attractiveness of aluminium alloys for the production of car body components, for example, is primarily due to their light weight, in which they are superior to steel. The weight aspect, however, has not led to the abandonment of steel for automotive components. The reason is its higher deformation resistance than aluminium alloys. In order to reduce the weight of steel components, for example, they are made from low-carbon steel with the appropriate admixtures, which makes it possible to use thinner, and consequently lighter, sheets while maintaining the expected level of strength

Let's talk about your project


Plastics

Undoubtedly an important group of materials with which the weight of a vehicle can be reduced are various types of plastics. They offer an advantage both functionally and economically. What are some of the lightweight plastics used in car manufacturing in Poland and worldwide? 

Based on the example given, it can be concluded that modern industrial design of cars is moving towards weight reduction. The aim is to improve the fuel efficiency and performance of vehicles and reduce their exhaust emissions. At the same time, it should be noted that reducing the weight of cars must not be associated with a deterioration of their other properties. Innovative materials can be used to make vehicle components that are lighter, have high strength and look good in a variety of other ways. Which of these materials are worth paying particular attention to? 

  • EPP, or expanded polypropylene, is a lightweight, highly mechanically resistant material, which is most commonly used in the car manufacturing process to create energy-absorbing elements in bumpers and car doors, for example. It is also used in the manufacture of interior car components, such as head restraints or seat and boot panels, among others. It is worth noting that EPP can be successfully combined with a variety of metal components and plastics, giving these materials other desired properties. 
  • Polyurethane – the characteristic features of this plastic are high durability, flexibility and resistance to mechanical damage. Exterior automotive components, including spoilers for example, are made from this material. 
  • Ultramid – another example of a lightweight plastic that is in high demand in the automotive sector. The attractiveness of this thermoplastic material is not only due to its low weight, but also its high strength, stiffness and heat resistance. Ultramid can be reinforced in various ways, such as with glass fibre. Manufacturers use the material to create a variety of lightweight and highly durable automotive components, including oil sumps. 

Composites 

Composites are also a group of modern materials used in car manufacturing to reduce weight. Among these, carbon fibre is particularly well-known in the automotive world and is used, for example, for body components and drive shafts. Components made of carbon fibre are expensive, but they stand out: 

  • very lightweight, 
  • no susceptibility to corrosion, 
  • high resistance to mechanical damage 
  • exceptional aesthetics. 

It is worth noting that carbon fibre is not the only lightweight composite material of interest to the automotive sector. Another example of a lightweight composite that is used in the automotive industry is aramid fibre, more commonly known as Kevlar. It owes its popularity in the automotive world to, among other things: 

  • very low inherent weight – aramid fibres are noticeably lighter not only than steel but also carbon fibre) 
  • high tensile strength and mechanical damage, 
  • high thermal resistance, 
  • high friction resistance. 

What applications does aramid fibre find in car manufacturing? They are used for, among other things: 

  • construction of body components in lightweight rally cars, 
  • reinforcing vital vehicle components, such as timing belts, 
  • the development of friction linings with Kevlar fibre to provide more effective clutch protection in sports cars and off-road vehicles.  

Recyclates and renewable materials – the key to sustainable car manufacturing 

The drive to reduce the weight of cars is not the only eco-friendly trend we can observe in the automotive sector. Another direction being pursued by car corporations both because of their responsible approach to environmental wellbeing and the legal regulations that oblige them to do so is circular mobility. Its primary objectives include: 

  • reduction in harmful exhaust emissions, 
  • reducing the amount of waste generated, 
  • reducing the use of primary raw materials in favour of greater use of secondary raw materials

The intense discussions at European level surrounding the work on new regulations on the so-called “circularity” of vehicles are justified by the statistical data. According to current calculations, car manufacturing is one of the industries most responsible for the consumption of resources such as steel, plastics, aluminium and rubber, among others. In the context of this industry, there is also a high demand for, for example, glass or copper, and with the advancement of motorisation and the development of electric vehicles, also rare earth elements. The transition of the automotive sector to a closed-loop economy is seen as a way of improving this situation. 

It is worth noting that automotive companies aiming to produce cars in line with the circularity concept need to take a comprehensive approach to this issue. Successful implementation of the principles of the circular economy requires that both the way in which cars are designed, manufactured and treated at end-of-life and the materials used to manufacture vehicles are brought up to appropriate standards. The circular production model is currently being implemented by leading companies in the automotive sector, such as Volkswagen, Mercedes, Renault and BMW, among others.  

A very big part of circular car production is the greater use of recyclates than in traditional vehicle manufacturing models. Modern technologies make it possible to recover recyclates, which can be successfully used in the production of automotive components without the risk of degrading their essential properties. It is worth taking a closer look at interesting examples of the use of recyclates and renewable materials in the manufacture of vehicle components. 

What can recyclates and renewable materials be used for in car manufacturing? 

One of the car companies working on using recycled materials to manufacture car components is BMW. The brand’s new vehicles use a minimum of 20% recycled plastics in the total weight of plastics used in the production of a car. Examples of the use of recyclates and renewable materials in some of BMW’s latest electric car models include: 

  • matt lacquers made from renewable raw materials, including bio-waste, 
  • Deserttex material obtained from powdered cactus fibres and biopolyurethane, used as a substitute for animal leather in the case of seat upholstery, for example, 
  • recycled plastics used in the manufacture of bumpers or windscreen covers, 
  • floor covering made from a combination of plastics recovered from, among other things, used fishing nets

The BMW Group is of course not the only one to make increasingly bold use of recyclates and renewable materials in the manufacture of components for its vehicles. How are other car manufacturers using such solutions to reduce the environmental impact of their cars? 

Ford uses plastic from PET bottles, nylon or polypropylene liners to manufacture chassis and engine covers, as well as front and rear wheel arch covers for its new cars. An important area of the brand’s pro-environmental activities is also the maximisation of aluminium recycling at its production facilities, thus significantly reducing its demand for virgin raw material. It is also worth noting that the manufacturer uses a variety of renewable materials of plant origin in its production, such as soy foam used for seat cushions, backrests and headrests.  

An interesting solution that Mercedes and its partners have developed is pyrolysis oil, which is partially derived from used car tyres. Combined with certified biomethane derived from agricultural waste, it produces a plastic with very good properties, which can be used to manufacture a variety of components such as exterior door handles. The ability to make components from secondary raw materials that do not differ in quality and technical parameters from their counterparts made from so-called virgin plastic eliminates the need to use raw fossil resources. It is worth noting that this recycled material can be used to manufacture other automotive components, including, for example, the impact absorber that is part of the front belt of a vehicle

Let's talk about your project


Examples of the use of modern recyclates, renewable materials and other types of recycled raw materials in the production of automotive components can be multiplied. In the context of other applications of these materials that should be highlighted, it is worth mentioning, among others

  • mounting bracket and other recycled components used on the Audi Q4 e-tron, 
  • Dinamica microfibre, derived largely from polyester fibres from, among other things, recycled PET bottles and old textiles, which, in combination with faux leather, was used for the upholstery of the sports seats in the interior of the Audi Q4 e-tron S line, 
  • carpets and sound insulation made from recycled materials used in the Skoda ENYAQ iV, 
  • interior trim of the ID. Buzz by Volkswagen made partly from recycled materials. 

Summary 

Car manufacturing in Poland and around the world is currently undergoing a gradual transformation towards ecology and greater respect for natural resources. This involves a constant search for new materials that will allow automotive companies to reduce the negative environmental impact of the vehicles they produce while improving their efficiency and performance. 

One of the leading trends in contemporary global car manufacturing is the drive to reduce vehicle weight. What is the reason for car manufacturers to set such a goal? Reducing the weight of a car benefits a number of aspects, such as fuel efficiency and car performance. It also contributes to lower emissions, making the vehicle more environmentally friendly. In order to reduce the weight of their vehicles, car manufacturers are looking for modern lightweight materials that are able to replace heavier counterparts while maintaining the expected level of other properties, such as strength or thermal resistance, for example. Composites in the form of carbon fibre and Kevlar, among others, as well as innovative plastics such as ultramid, are excelling in this role. 

From the perspective of reducing the environmental cost of vehicles, increasing the proportion of recyclates and renewable materials in their construction is more important than reducing their weight. Increasing the use of recycled materials in the car manufacturing process is also a regulatory requirement for car companies. Increasing the use of such plastics in vehicle manufacturing has many benefits, such as reducing harmful exhaust emissions, decreasing the amount of waste generated, and reducing the consumption of primary raw materials, among others. Increased use of recycled materials is also a necessary element for car manufacturing to follow the concept of circular mobility, which is being implemented by an increasing number of leading automotive companies

Let's talk about your project


As Endego, we have extensive experience in technology projects for the automotive sector. We offer comprehensive services in which we are involved in every stage of the project, from the development of the initial concept to the start of series production. Amongst others, companies wishing to reduce the weight of their vehicle and use modern recycled materials for their vehicle can benefit from the support of our qualified team. 

Do you need the support of skilled engineers and designers with experience in the automotive sector to help you develop reliable, lightweight components made from recycled and renewable materials for your company’s project car? Get in touch with us

You may also be interested in

Altair Technology Conference 2024

Altair Technology Conference 2024 was held in Krakow, Poland, on May 23-24. The event attracted nearly 140 participants, making it one of the largest meetings of the numerical computing industry in Poland. The success of this edition was influenced by both the content of the event and its unique atmosphere.

Read more

Engineering for Safety: Advances in crash test technology

Professional crash tests are one of the important elements of the process of introducing new car models to the market. They allow, under controlled conditions, to verify how a vehicle will behave under the influence of various impacts, analogous to those occurring during dangerous incidents on the road. Currently, car crash tests, also known as crash-tests, are an obligation of car manufacturers wishing to introduce new vehicles for sale. The results of such tests determine whether a car will meet established crash standards, and thus be allowed to be used in a given country. Along with the development of crash test technology comes developments in the area of materials to improve vehicle safety and durability. The approach of auto manufacturers to the car design process is also evolving.

Read more

Energy-efficient off-highway machinery: ways to increase energy efficiency

Trends in energy management, the development of electric and hybrid vehicles, as well as innovations in fleet management and labor optimization are influencing manufacturers and operators of off-highway machinery. The application of modern solutions from these areas can significantly contribute to improving the energy efficiency of the entire off-highway sector.

Read more

Newsletter

Drive innovation:
Subscribe for key insights