According to a newly published report from IHS Markit, entitled IHS Chemical Carbon Fibres, Chemical Economics Handbook, the usage of carbon fiber in automotive manufacturing is expected to nearly double from 2015 to 2020. According to the IHS report, global car production is expected to rise over the next couple of years to more than 110 million units in 2025, up from the estimated 88.7 million units in 2015. Much of the growth will come from the fast-expanding Chinese market. The report says the average car will incorporate nearly 350 kilograms (771.63 lbs) of plastics, up from 200 kilograms (440.92 lbs) in 2014.

“While metal and metal alloys are still critical to automotive design, automakers are finding innovative ways to leverage plastics and composites into their designs to help reduce vehicle weight and improve efficiency,” said Casey Selecman, senior manager of automotive advisory services at IHS Markit. “As efficiency and carbon reduction regulations increase globally, we expect the use of plastics will only increase as the materials improve and production costs are reduced.”

This is driven by increasingly ambitious government goals to meet Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency (CAFE) standards of 54.5 mpg by 2025. IHS Markit estimates that in order for those goals to be feasible, fuel economy must be improved by approximately 50 percent across the passenger vehicle fleet. The use of carbon fibers and polymer matrix composites enable car-body weight-reductions of an estimated 25-70 percent compared to competing materials, according to IHS.

“Closures, which are doors, lift-gates and hoods, are the easiest options to significantly reduce vehicle weight, and we see significant opportunities for [composites in] those as well as non-critical structures such as seats, instrument panels, and under the hood for engine cradles, pans, covers, and so on,” the report said.

The report adds that composites offer far more than just weight reduction.

“Beyond the practical advantages of using plastics and composites, these materials can greatly enhance the design and aesthetic appeal of cars, and while performance, structural strength and safety are key purchase considerations, buyers also look for designs that appeal to the head and the heart,” the report said.