New materials and manufacturing methods are making vehicles not only lighter but also better. Solutions from Evonik will make just about every car more efficient in the future.
The automotive industry currently faces major challenges, as legislators and associations around the world are mandating that vehicles should be made more efficient as part of the effort to combat climate change. In other words, mobility must become cleaner and more economical. At the same time, drivers continue to demand a level of comfort and safety that requires the inclusion of more and more equipment and systems. For decades, this led to an increase in vehicle weight with every new model generation, and this development basically negated the numerous advances that had been made with efficient drive systems, improved aerodynamics, and cleaner fuels. A broad range of innovations is needed to ensure that ever more sophisticated equipment can be efficiently put on the road. Such innovations involve everything from lightweight designs and materials to more efficient powertrains. As a specialist for exceptionally high-performance materials, Evonik offers solutions in just about every area here.
For example, the company has developed joining technology systems that use very powerful adhesives instead of weld seams, bolts, and rivets. This not only improves bonds between various materials such as metals and plastics; it also makes possible completely new component concepts and enables thinner materials to be used to achieve the same degree of component strength, which also reduces weight. Evonik supplies additives for the special adhesives needed here and also offers a hot melt adhesive system that withstands high stress loads and can thus meet the strictest safety requirements in crash tests.
Plastics are playing an increasingly important role in efforts to make mobility more efficient. They can be used in place of heavier metal parts and also enable the creation of new functions. Even components such as air intake pipes, which are mounted close to the engine and exposed to high levels of stress, can now be manufactured using temperature-resistant high-performance plastics from Evonik. In this case, the weight benefit is accompanied by an optimized air flow.
Evonik is also conducting practical tests with many other solutions—for example, in an ultra-lightweight sports car Evonik designed with Roding Automobile, a small-batch manufacturer from Bavaria. The vehicle is being used to test materials for composites, structural foams, plastic glazing, and oil additives under tough racing conditions.
Head of the Automotive Industries Team (AIT)
at Evonik Industries
At the same time, new series production processes are needed if racing innovations are to be transferred to the mass market. Evonik has already accomplished a great deal in this regard with composites. For example, researchers in Evonik’s Composites Project House have developed systems and processes that enable composites to be manufactured more quickly and simply, and less expensively. In the course of their work, they also combined properties that were long considered impossible for plastic materials. This feat was achieved with new combinations of polymers, crosslinkers, and catalysts, for example, and it ensures that the potential of composites can be exploited more effectively.
However, lightweight design alone is not enough to make cars significantly more climate-friendly. In particular, the powertrain—where up to 20 percent of a vehicle’s energy is lost—needs to be optimized. Evonik is currently establishing a center of competence for such optimization. The facility will channel key areas of expertise at the Group to develop new powertrain technologies. For example, plastics and new coatings in transmissions, combined with specially optimized lubricant additives, could help reduce the loss of engine performance during vehicle operation.
Even with 130 years of development experience, there’s still plenty of potential for improving automobiles. The road to climate-friendly mobility will be marked not so much by leaps in technology as by the combination of a large number of individual improvements. Evonik, with its innovations for everything from vehicle roofs to tires, fuels, lubricants, and paints, is present just about everywhere in automobiles, which means the company is well equipped to participate in every step of the problem’s solution.
Modern low rolling-resistance tires offer an important efficiency benefit today. These tires contain the silica-silane system from Evonik, which reduces rolling resistance even as it ensures optimal traction on wet roads. The result: longer range and lower fuel consumption and emissions.