Elimination of the internal combustion engine and exhaust system will significantly lower the operating temperature requirement of many automotive parts, creating new opportunities for composites. Battery covers and enclosures are a perfect fit for composites due to their high strength-to-weight ratio, corrosion resistance, design flexibility and part consolidation opportunities versus stamped metal assemblies. Challenging new fire-resistance standards for electric vehicle components can be met with the selection of an appropriate resin system or with the addition of intumescent coatings.
The current market position of electric vehicles also favors growth of composite materials. Because today’s batteries cost more than an equivalent gasoline engine, electric vehicles occupy a premium position in the market. The high selling price of these vehicles limits sales volume, however, which generally favors composites. As production volume decreases, the fixed cost of dies for steel or aluminum stampings becomes a larger part of the unit part cost, which improves the economics of composites for applications such as closure panels and truck beds. This trend will continue for at least the first half of the decade, after which battery costs are expected to be nearly on par with internal combustion engines.
The growth trajectory of automotive composites is illustrated by indexing vehicle production and automotive composites volume to a base year of 2017 and projecting demand through 2025. Should composites continue to grow above the market, as they have for the past decade, automotive composite volume will eclipse the base year a full year earlier than light vehicle production.
Figure X: Light Vehicle Production & Automotive Composite Outlook
Source: Industrial Market Insight
The Glass Fiber Market
By Dr. Sanjay Mazumdar, CEO
More than two years since the COVID-19 outbreak, the pandemic’s effect lingers on manufacturing operations across industries. The entire supply chain has been disrupted, and the glass fiber industry is no exception. Factors including shipping delays, increases in ocean freight and container cost, decreased Chinese exports and customer demand have led to shortages of composite raw materials, such as glass fiber and epoxy and polyester resin in North America.
Even with supply chain issues, the U.S. glass fiber market grew 10.8% in 2021, with demand increasing to 2.7 billion pounds compared to 2.5 billion pounds in 2020. Construction, pipe and tank, electrical and electronics, wind energy, consumer goods and marine applications experienced significant growth, while the aerospace market declined in 2021.