The automotive industry faces a new challenge aligning material properties, product design and production or assembly processes - especially in larger volume production series vehicles – but could take more advantage of the potential of composites for light-weighting vehicles. The demand for weight reduction is driven by the demand for better fuel efficiency and reduced emissions to comply with EU legislation. In 2007 over 500 million tons of CO2 emissions were estimated to be due to cars in the EU; it is estimated that savings due to composites light-weighting result in a potential 1.4% improvement here.
From its inception in 2004, SusChem identified advanced materials as an enabling technology critical to achieving its vision and mission. SusChem has set innovation priorities for advanced materials to be adopted in key end user markets including automotive and highlighted 'Multifunctional light-weight construction' as a priority for smart, green and integrated transport in its Strategic Innovation and Research Agenda (SIRA).
The SusChem Working Group on Composites Materials for Automotive pulled together experts from the chemical industry, the automotive industry, the automotive parts suppliers as well as academia and recommended the publication of the brochure as well as a wider consultation with the established competence centres in Europe.
In October 2013 SusChem and the automotive R&D association EARPA organised a joint workshop, “Exploring cross-innovation opportunities on automotive composites and bio-based materials” in Frankfurt. The outcomes of this workshop, as well as feedback collected by a stakeholder consultation held as a follow-up exercise, are summarised in several key conclusions and recommendations within the polymer brochure.
The brochure integrates specific input from key stakeholders across the value chain, including those involved in production equipment, and provides concrete recommendations to enable faster progress in advanced composites light-weighting innovation uptake in the European automotive industry.
A set of specific R&D&I challenges are defined for advanced composite materials including:
- Novel and innovative polymer composite raw materials with enhanced recyclability properties
- Low cost adaptive, flexible and efficient manufacturing and assembly processes specific to the high-volume automotive industry
- Multi-attribute design optimisation that works even in case of a multi-material architecture
- Automated joining techniques for multi-materials and composites
- Invisible damage identification and repair techniques for composite parts
A key wider-scale objective is the establishment of an EU-wide programme to ensure adequate support for automotive composites research and innovation in the long term.
As well as this coordinated R&D&I programme, the establishment of a European Automotive Composites Competence Network is proposed. This network of R&D&I clusters can improve the coordination between local knowledge hubs.
For further information on SusChem activities in this area contact Jacques Komornicki at Cefic.