How can Europe take the global lead in automotive composites: a vision by Suschem’s stakeholders
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.
Global initiatives in other regions, such as the USA and Japan, are polling stakeholders and resources together to accelerate the adoption of composites in automotive and other key sectors. IACMI in the USA has brought together more than 120 stakeholders and some $250 million in public and private funding.
Europe needs more focus, more collaboration and adequate resources to ensure leadership in the sector.
In the newly published brochure “Polymer composites for automotive sustainability” by Suschem (edited by Bax & Company), industry experts argue that there are three key actions that need to be co-ordinated at a European level to spearhead the work on automotive composites.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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