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 Plastics vs Automobile Industry

 

 

Plastics’ use reaches record levels in automotive sector

 

A report published today shows a steady increase in the use of plastics by Europe’s car manufacturing industry since the 1970s, rising to nearly two million tonnes today.

By volume, plastics are now the most widely specified material. However, plastics’ low weight means they account for about 10 per cent of the total weight of a modern car.

The study, carried out by Mavel on behalf of the Association of Plastics Manufacturers in Europe (APME), examines the use of plastics in cars over the last three decades in Europe with specific reference to France, Germany and Italy.

The report shows that this increase in the use of plastics is particularly dramatic in certain types of cars. For example, some of the cars surveyed registered a four-fold increase in their use of plastics between the 1970s and 1990s.

It is estimated that, on average, 100 kilograms of plastics replaces 200-300 kilograms of conventional material, reducing fuel consumption by 750 litres over a life span of 150 000 kilometres.

Additional calculations across all cars suggest that this cuts oil consumption by 12 million tonnes and reduces CO2 emissions by 30 million tonnes per year in Western Europe alone. Twelve million tonnes of oil equates to approximately 10 per cent of passenger fuel consumption in Western Europe in 1996.

 

 

Plastics to build lighter cars

 

There are many examples in a modern car of weight savings made possible by plastics: plastics-made bumpers are up to 10.4 kilograms lighter, engine covers 4.2 kilograms lighter and plastics fuel tanks five kilograms lighter than those made of conventional materials. In turn, chassis, drive trains and transmission parts can all be made lighter as a result of having to support a lower overall car weight.

These figures show the vital contribution plastics will make to help the automotive industry meet environmental challenges. They confirm what was already highlighted in a study, ‘The car of the future, the future of the car’, carried out by IPTS and published by the European Parliament, European Commission DGXII and the STOA Panel in 1996. The authors report: "The automotive industry is approaching an era that may revolutionise its use of materials. The major aim of the industry is to decrease the weight of the automobile in order to reduce fuel consumption, and consequently emissions."
The industry’s move toward lighter vehicles means plastics consumption in the automotive sector will increase dramatically. For example, a study carried out in Japan by MITI predicted that beyond 2000, use of plastics in the average car could increase by 17 per cent from 115 kilograms (nine per cent of average car weight) in 1989 to 220 kilograms (26 per cent).

 

 

Plastics: reducing pollution and saving fossil fuels

 

Relatively little oil is needed to produce plastics. Western Europe consumed over 26 million tonnes of plastics in 1996, of which 7 per cent - nearly 2 million tonnes - were used in the manufacture of new cars during that year . These plastics represent just 0.3 per cent of oil consumption - just one hundredth of the oil used as fuel by the transport sector as a whole over the same period. Yet they are constantly helping to reduce the amount of fossil fuel and resources consumed. These savings will rise as plastics’ consumption in the automotive industry increases.

Commenting on the results of the study, Patrick Peuch, director at APME’s Technical and Environmental Centre, said: "In today’s average car, there are already more than 1000 plastics parts of all sizes and shapes all providing fine examples of the many benefits of plastics’ light weight, durability and versatility. With plastics consumption set to rise steadily, cars in the next Millennium will be lighter, safer and even better designed for people and the environment through their whole life cycle."

To obtain a free copy of the report, please contact APME’s communications Director (see below).

 

 Plastics in Automotible Manufacture

 

 

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