Covestro has partnered with the Research and Development Center of Guangzhou Automobile Group Co. Ltd. to develop a lightweight composite seat back for the Chinese car manufacturer’s latest electric concept car, the ENO.146.
Guangzhou Automobile Group (GAC) touts the ENO.146 concept car as one of the most aerodynamically efficient vehicles in the world and the name pays tribute to a drag coefficient of only 0.146. The NEDC (New European Driving Cycle) range of the vehicle is 1,000 kilometers. The aerodynamic design is needed to achieve these performance goals, but the GAC Research and Development (R&D) Center has also focused on lightweighting and the use of sustainable materials in the ENO.146 all the way to the seats.
“Mobility trends such as electrification and autonomous driving are redefining the role and function of car interiors,” says Zhang Fan, Vice President of the GAC R&D Center. “There is a growing need for material solutions that are lightweight and sustainable while opening up ways to create new user experiences ranging from visual to tactile feedback.”
The backrests of the front seats of the concept car are made of Covestro’s Maezio™ continuous fiber-reinforced thermoplastic composite (CFRTP), saving an estimated 50 percent in weight when compared to traditional metal seat constructions. Production of the seatbacks is simplified and consolidated as Maezio is a thermoplastic material and functional structures of fittings and other attachments to the seatback are incorporated into the mold for shaping the backrest. The number of parts and materials is reduced, as well as weight.
“Seats in the passenger compartment are an ideal target for weight savings, as they are among the heaviest parts there,” says Lisa Ketelsen, head of Covestro’s thermoplastic composites business. “Fiber-reinforced composites are the ideal material for lightweight automotive construction, but Maezio can further simplify molding and streamline the manufacturing process.”
In a nod to sustainability, the surface patterns of the interior of the ENO.146 are intended to recreate the ambiance of a lake and lotus flowers. “The backrest must fit into this design concept as a visible component, so the material must have a natural look and feel and high aesthetic value, and it must also be recyclable,” said Stephen Chen, chief designer in Advanced Design for the GAC R&D Center. Maezio can be cut and shaped to meet design aesthetics and can be reused at the end of life.