With federal auto emissions regulations expected to become more restrictive in the US and Europe, auto manufacturers are working to find ways to limit automobile weight, since heavier vehicles consume more fuel.
Oil pans, like engine covers, are large, heavy components and this makes them good targets for lightweighting, according to Jeff Sternberg of DuPont. Lightweighting has become increasingly important to automakers as a way to increase fuel efficiency.
DuPont is working closely with major automobile manufacturers and parts suppliers to help produce the next generation of lighter vehicles.
However, the process is not as simple as substituting plastic for metal. Loads, mechanical stresses and other factors need to be taken into consideration.
At DuPont’s experimental station near Wilmington, Del., researchers are working to expose polymers like nylon and polyesters to higher temperatures to see how they soften and melt. Stabilizers are added to give the materials stiffness and strength at elevated temperatures, especially for use under the hood.
At DuPont’s Chestnut Run campus, the company is working on turning those polymers into applications like air ducts.
In Switzerland, DuPont is focusing on lighter weight innovations for trucks. Trucks are a big part of the effort to reduce overall vehicle emissions, since they are heavier than cars and constantly on the road. Scania is currently using DuPont’s Zytel brand nylon resin to mold an engine’s oil sump, which is the lower shell of an oil pan module.
In cars, DuPont is working to make lighter cooling systems, fuel lines, intake manifolds mounted on the engine block, and parts of the chassis.
Photo Credit: Oil Pan via DuPont