Plastics play bigger role in today's autos

11 November 2015 22:04 Source:ICIS News

The American Chemistry Council says plastics and polymer composites have grown from an average 20 pounds per car in 1960 to 329 pounds in today’s minivans, pickups and SUVs. (Jim West/imageBROKER/REX Shutterstock)
The American Chemistry Council says plastics and polymer composites have grown from an average 20 pounds per car in 1960 to 329 pounds in today’s minivans, pickups and SUVs. (Jim West/imageBROKER/REX Shutterstock)

HOUSTON (ICIS)--The use of plastics in the production of light vehicles is continuing to grow, with more than $18.1bn worth of finished automotive plastic products incorporated into vehicles assembled in the US and Canada last year, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) said on Wednesday.

In a new report, the ACC found that the use of plastics and polymer composites has grown from an average of 20 pounds per car in 1960 to 329 pounds in today’s cars, minivans, pickups and SUVs.

Additionally, the ACC said that US companies producing plastic automotive parts directly employ 55,000 people, which then creates an additional 50,000 jobs elsewhere in the economy.

Automotive plastic parts were produced at nearly 16,000 plants located in 45 states last year, the ACC said.

The ACC estimates that plastic materials form approximately 50% of a lightweight vehicle’s volume, but only about 8% of the vehicle’s weight.

Steve Russell, vice president of plastics for ACC, said the advances in plastics are making significant contributions to the fuel efficiency, safety and design of cars and trucks.

“And tough, lightweight plastics will help automakers further reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions to meet 2025 CAFE requirements,” Russell said.

Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) regulations are driving companies to look at reducing the weight of vehicles, with the aim of doubling fleet fuel economy within the next 10 years.

The ACC report also details the growing use of plastics and polymer composites throughout the interior, exterior, electrical system, chassis, powertrain, fuel system and engine of vehicles.

The automotive industry is a major global consumer of petrochemicals which contribute more than a third of the raw material costs of an average vehicle. ICIS tracks the movement of petrochemical raw material costs in auto production both globally and regionally with the weighted ICIS Basket of Automotive Petrochemicals (IBAP).

ICIS has launched a Global Automotive report covering the major automotive chemicals markets, and auto-industry and macroeconomic trends. For more information on the report and details on how to subscribe, please email automotive@icis.com.

By Christie Moffat