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Plastics and Automobile Design

Apr 2016

A recent SXSW Eco event focused on the role of plastics in automobile design. The discussion, facilitated by the American Chemistry Council’s Plastics Make It Possible, looked at building more fuel-efficient cars and the role that material selection can play in that design process. The participants talked about whether you can make an engine out of plastic and why Google and Apple are getting into the car business.

Robert McMahon, a professor of physics at Kettering University, told the audience that “automotive as a technology space is in a resurgence.” He pointed out that “automotive is in a very real sense the platform technology of this century in a way that it never has been.”

While the SXSW panelists were focused on what’s next, there’s a lot of plastic –specifically vinyl – already in cars.

As the illustration shows, there is vinyl in the underbody coating to prevent rust and corrosion and vinyl in the taillight wiring to insulate electrical conductors for signals and safety lighting. There’s also PVC in the internal passenger compartment wiring for insulation and to prevent electrical fires. In addition, vinyl is used for acoustic sound deafening. Plus vinyl is the material of choice for durable interior features, including floor mats and fabric coating on seats and steering columns.

And do you own or are you looking to purchase a convertible? vinyl has you covered there too, as many retractable convertible tops are made with vinyl.