Designers of hybrid and electric vehicles are relying on plastics and plastic-composite materials to help reduce weight and boost fuel efficiency. Hybrid cars save fuel primarily through the use of lighter, space-saving gasoline engines, coupled with batteries and electric motors that boost performance without adding lots of weight. But every ounce of weight counts so many of the traditionally metal components of cars are being replaced with lighter weight plastics.
Designers of Hyundai’s plug-in-hybrid concept car Blue Will have adopted carbon-fiber reinforced plastics and nano-composites for side sills, moldings and fenders in the body of the car. And in a further nod toward green car technology, bio-plastics are used for interior panels and parts, including a bike rack that is integrated into the trunk of the car, and recycled plastic bottles are used to make the headlight bezels.
Blue Will also incorporates new advances in battery technology by using new generation lithium-polymer batteries that are smaller and run cooler. So where are the plastics in these batteries? For lithium-polymer, read “lithium-plastic”. Lithium-polymer batteries are in wide use in cell phones today, and tomorrow they may power your plug-in car!
Hyundai is hardly alone in incorporating advanced plastics technology. Toyota’s concept hybrid FT-CH saves weight with a polycarbonate plastic back window that incorporates the rear lights, reducing the number of parts and weight. The futuristic model also moves the headlights away from the fascia and up near the windshield to reduce weight and eliminate the complex wiring that traditionally runs from the headlights to the electric system.
From new battery technology to lightweight car parts, plastics are helping make the next generation of hybrid cars possible.