The global automotive market is expected to grow to 100 million vehicles by 2019 according to Owens Corning market data presented by Corey Melvin in a CAMX educational session on Wednesday, Dec. 13. “Shortly thereafter, we can expect to save 100 kilograms [about 220 pounds] of weight per car due to composites,” said Melvin, global product manager for long fiber thermoplastics at Owens Corning.

There are several trends in the automotive market that are helping composites grow, including the well-publicized government-mandated targets to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and improve fuel economy. But there are others.

“A big trend for the composites industry is increased comfort and increased vehicle functionality,” said Melvin. “People want more stuff in their car – they want gadgets. And who knows what they’ll want when we have autonomous vehicles driving us around?” That presents lots of opportunities for the composites industry, he said.

“Over the next 10 years, the automotive industry will see more changes than we’ve seen over the last 50 years,” said Melvin. But those changes will come with challenges, including the following:

  • Strict CO2 emission targets by 2025 for many countries
  • Growth in SUVs
  • Changes in car ownership models (such as car sharing)
  • The development of autonomous vehicles
  • Increased automation, which will lead to greater vehicle costs
  • Consumer demand for faster, durable, stylish vehicles at a lower cost
  • Increased safety and crash requirement

Even with all these demands, composites open the doors for lightweighting, said Melvin. Most of the weight of a vehicle is structural (30 percent), then the interior, the power train, electrical/electronics and the exterior. “We see composites playing heavily in the power train – a relatively untapped area for composites – and the chassis and exterior,” he added.

Melvin told attendees in the session that the composites industry can address solutions for manufacturing efficiency, material use cost, hydrolysis resistance, weight savings, design freedom and function integration, and stylish parts. He concluded by sharing various thermoplastic and thermoset reinforcement solutions offered by Owens Corning.