Lightweighting is the automotive industry’s best bet to achieve the 2025 corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standard, according to Chuck Evans, corporate vice president at Henkel’s automotive group.
The US standard raises the average fuel economy of cars and light-duty trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.
In his remarks at yesterday’s WWJ Newsradio 950 Auto Summit in Southfield, Mich., Evans said there are many options to help automakers meet the CAFE requirement including advanced powertrains, vehicle downsizing, lightweighting and other innovations. Citing an MIT study, Evans said focusing on lightweighting alone will result in the average new vehicle weighing 28 percent less in 2016 than it does today. “Just imagine what we can do by 2025,” Evans said.
Vehicle lightweighting does more than reduce weight and improve fuel economy, however. It also helps the environment. Replacing 2 pounds of steel with 1 pound of aluminum saves 20 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions over the life of the vehicle, according to Alcoa. Additionally, fewer materials going into the vehicle means fewer industrial byproducts and a reduction of materials going into landfills.
According to Evans, by incorporating Henkel’s technologies, automakers can reduce the mass of every vehicle by more than 95 kilograms (about 209 pounds).
Using lightweight materials is not without its challenges, Evans says. Lightweight materials cannot be introduced by using traditional joining and surface treatment techniques. The use of new methods, like adhesives, plays a significant role.
Evans says the solution is found in chemistry. In particular, cured adhesives provide a protective barrier between metals that prevents corrosion, which is key given the highly corrosive nature of material like aluminum.
Lightweight material has often been impractical or cost prohibitive to put into mass production. Henkel has developed various technologies, from pretreatment processes to adhesives, to make lightweighting and mass production possible.
Henkel’s Loctite Max 2, for example, is a polyurethane-based resin system that cures faster than traditional epoxy resins. Due to its low viscosity, Loctite Max 2 more easily penetrates the fiber material, speeding up cycle times so lightweight materials like carbon fiber composites can be introduced on high-volume automotive production. Cycle time reduction varies per application. In one example, it was reduced from approximately 20 minutes to between eight and 10 minutes; in another application, it was reduced to only two to four minutes, the company says.