Four technology-driven trends disrupt the automotive industry and transform mobility as we know it today. Our future cars will be autonomous, electric, shared and connected. The production of electric vehicles is already in full swing and will amount to ten million units globally in 2025. Due to the increasing mass production and the development of new technologies, the costs per unit will decline significantly. However, this also brings about new challenges for the application of materials emerging for the automotive industry.
What does that mean for polymer manufacturing?
Polymer parts and components will not become redundant. They will rather be used for different applications, like battery brackets, connectors, casings and in batteries and electric engines. Nevertheless, the currently used materials need to be reviewed in order to determine their suitability for the use in electric, fuel cell and autonomous cars.
Different key properties and functional integration
Key polymer properties for these applications are flame retardancy as well as electric and thermal conductivity. The development of application-tailored polymers further allows weight reductions and thus lower energy consumption as heavy steel or die-cast aluminum parts can be replaced by lighter plastic parts and components.
Furthermore, the possibility to integrate additional features into polymer parts and components like sensors and electrical wiring provides great opportunities for the application of polymers in the cars of the future.
Polymer materials allow cost-efficient production
The increasing level of driving automation requires a wide range of new sensors, such as ultrasonic, radar, IR and LIDAR sensors. The sensors are installed in cars to avoid collisions, control distances and assist in emergencies and are essential for controlling cars completely automatically in the future.
Large-scale production of these solutions is only cost-efficient if these parts can be produced from polymers. Additional efforts need to be put into the development of radar-optimized polymers for better radar transmission and absorption. Only then can the accuracy and the improvement of the functionality of the automated vehicle be guaranteed.
Keep up with the new mobility concepts
Material manufacturers need to be highly observant of the rapidly changing automotive industry. The disruptions in mobility demand application of materials that adhere to the concepts of autonomous and electric vehicle.
Thermal analysis offers many opportunities to determine crucial properties like the behavior of polymers at different temperatures as well as thermal conductivity.
Dynamic Mechanical Analysis (DMA) and Thermomechanical Analysis (TMA) allow you to determine how load-bearing and stress-resistant polymer parts and components react under the new service conditions of electric and autonomous vehicles. Additionally, analysis using Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC) indicates the temperatures at which polymer materials start to melt.
With Laser Flash Analysis (LFA), you are able to determine how well a material carries heat or how temperature diffuses in a material.
Using thermal analysis methods in the material selection and design process for plastic parts and components in electric and autonomous vehicles supports your efforts to achieve advantages over your competitors.