Intelligent passenger compartment solutions for lightweight vehicles

Huge weight savings can be achieved with modern materials

© 2015 ContiTech Antriebssysteme GmbH

Xpreshn offers almost unlimited freedom of self-expression, including scratch-resistant, weight-reduced or extremely soft, as required © 2015 ContiTech Antriebssysteme GmbH

Huge weight savings can be achieved with modern passenger compartment materials. Dr. Erhard Barho, Head of R&D at surface specialist Benecke-Kaliko, gave a presentation to the assembled experts at the Lightweight Vehicles Conference in Berlin about the options which are already available.

Technical plastics are materials for the future for the automotive industry. After all, ever more stringent upper emission limits have to be met, and customers have to be offered economic solutions despite rising fuel prices. That is only possible if vehicles become lighter.

The average vehicle weight has already fallen by 20 percent since 2008 – and Barho is convinced that this trend will continue in order to achieve the optimal fuel efficiency. This is made possible primarily by means of lightweight plastic components. Their use is particularly important in vehicles using electric drives, which are still heavy – every gram of weight saved in these means a longer range and better drive performance. But the initial effect of measures to cut consumption and reduce emissions in internal combustion engines, too – such as exhaust gas recirculation systems, particulate filters and electronic control systems – is to increase the vehicle weight, which then has to be saved elsewhere.

The plastics also need to become lighter

Numerous plastic materials can already help if they are used in place of the heavier materials employed hitherto. But Barho is certain of one thing: “In order to also meet future requirements, however, it will be necessary to develop ever lighter plastic solutions.“ After all, experts estimate that plastics will constitute up to 18 percent of the weight of an average vehicle by 2020.

The materials for the vehicle interior offer an especially large potential. This is where Benecke-Kaliko comes in with its lightweight construction solutions. The ultralight Xpreshn Light and Xpreshn HD Light decorative foils, for instance, offer vehicle manufacturers the ability to reduce the weight of their vehicles without the purchasers having to accept lower quality or, even, lower comfort as a result. The materials for instrument panels, door trims, consoles, scoops, the heel mat, tray areas, pillars, seat backs and floor coverings even feel softer and more pleasing still than other foil products.

No adverse impacts on other product properties

Xpreshn Light and Xpreshn HD Light, which is cross-linked for especially high grain stability, are expanded foil laminates with a compact upper foil and a foam lower foil. The foils are deep-drawn in the customer’s plant and bonded to the substrate – for example, the door cladding. “They enable a further 20 percent weight saving compared with the Xpreshn and Xpreshn HD materials, which were themselves conceived as lightweight design solutions,” Bartho told the conference delegates.

“This means they are up to 60 percent lighter than conventional solutions.” However, the advantages extend far beyond the weight saving and the associated environmental benefits: The two materials permit tight radii and impress buyers thanks to their grain stability, surface quality and dimensional stability. They are also available with the “high scratch resistance” option.

Another lightweight construction solution is Benecke-Kaliko’s Acella Light trim and upholstery material for seats, consoles and decorative elements. “The material weighs 20 percent less than comparable standard surface materials,” explained Barho. “It is free of plasticizers and foaming agents which are toxic to reproduction and also contains no heavy-metal stabilizers.”

The Yorn Light foil solution is used for instrument panels, door trims, consoles, head restraints, seat backs, tray areas and pillars. This environment-friendly and inexpensive surface material for vehicle interiors enables weight savings of up to 50 percent compared with standard decorative materials, and its carbon footprint is up to 46 percent smaller than standard PVC foils.

It can be used wherever PVC expanded foils have been used up till now. The difference is that lighter polypropylene (PP) is now used instead of a PVC foam. “If lighter foils are used consistently, up to 2 kg can be saved per vehicle,” Benecke-Kaliko’s experts have calculated. Yorn Light’s other convincing properties are that it is soft to the touch and has a wide processing window and a broad spectrum of colors and grain designs.

Source: ContiTech Antriebssysteme GmbH