The demand for personalized mobility continues to grow worldwide. Car buyers also are becoming increasingly demanding when it comes to the functionality and design of their vehicles. Both of these trends make it necessary to totally re-think the materials used in automotive engineering today.

And this is where high-tech materials from Covestro come into play: in terms of performance, safety, comfort and appearance, they offer a world of new possibilities for many components in a vehicle.

Road traffic generates one-fifth of global CO₂ emissions, and this figure is on the rise. A car that is just 10 percent lighter consumes about five percent less fuel.


Peak performance and low weight

Ever since the early days of automotive manufacturing, glass and metal have been the dominant materials in exterior vehicle design. But innovative technologies from Covestro today offer intelligent alternatives to conventional materials. These alternatives enhance efficiency, sustainability and creative freedom in designing the body of a vehicle. The result is entirely new opportunities for designing increasingly lightweight and aerodynamic automotive components.

The benefits for vehicle owners in detail:

Less weight means greater efficiency: lightweight construction
Only recently has legislation permitted manufacturers to fabricate automotive glazing from transparent polycarbonate instead of glass. This step slashes the weight of the glazing in half, without compromising on the strength of the structure. In turn, less weight reduces fuel consumption.

But the windows aren’t the only exterior components in which Covestro materials demonstrate their advantages: polycarbonate in plastic blends is found in many other body parts, such as panoramic roofs, radiator grilles and rear spoilers.

Our continuously advanced polyurethane systems are also found in numerous on-board applications, including lightweight but durable fenders and bumpers. Combining polyurethane with carbon fibers turns it into a strong composite material, which is ideal for fabricating complete structural components. What has been enhancing peak performance in race cars for many years now may soon be making electric cars lighter or reducing emissions in conventional vehicles.
From a single mold: design
The various car models produced by different manufacturers are becoming increasingly similar. All the more important it is for designers to attract potential buyers by giving vehicles a distinctive look. What makes polycarbonate the material of choice in this context is its flexibility, because it permits designs that would be impossible to achieve in glass.

An example: instead of the usual structure of windows, pillars and roof, the entire roof module can now be a monolithic, transparent dome, thanks to polycarbonate. The result: a 360-degree panorama view without any blind spots, greater safety for other traffic participants and an entirely new design experience. We already showed at K2016 what such a component might look like.
Simplifying coating: environmental compatibility

Covestro materials enhance sustainability not only by optimizing the weight of a vehicle or its aerodynamics. They also contribute to greater efficiency and sustainability in their manufacture and use.

For example, the number of low-solvent coatings in our product portfolio has been rising continuously. Our long-term objective: to ban solvents entirely from formulations, without compromising on service life and brilliance.

Innovative coating raw materials developed by Covestro make it possible, for instance, to coat plastic components and car bodies in a single step, because coatings like Desmodur® are based on polyurethane and cure effectively at just 60 °C instead of the standard 200 °C. At the same time, they help to reduce energy input by about 15 percent or to shorten the curing process by up to 30 percent.

What is more, we also have coating hardeners in our range that are comprised of 70% biomass and we are working every day on additional innovations to make the world a brighter place.

A car owner spends an average of 12 days a year in the car.


An eye on inner worth

A driver spends an average of about 50 minutes a day in his or her vehicle, and naturally should enjoy the experience every time. In the automotive interior, the goal therefore is to unite amenities with functionality. High-quality surfaces, comfortable seats and the integration of the latest technical equipment: the interior as a mobile living room is a critical factor for consumers when purchasing a car.

Covestro offers versatile materials for unique interiors.

Ultra-thin and high-quality: surface finish

The surfaces in vehicle interiors should look luxurious, be pleasant to the touch and of course provide protection against external influences. Automotive manufacturers depend on several of our technologies to meet these diverse demands. Polyurethane soft-feel coatings, for instance, give components a high-quality appearance and feel. Only a few hundredths of a millimeter thick, they also withstand mechanical stress very well.

Covestro is also developing ultra-thin polycarbonate films for the automotive sector, whose surface or structure exhibit special properties. The material can be matte, glossy or textured. With the “black panel effect,” for instance, they support displays that are visible only when they are really needed, meaning that the cockpit has a cleaner, sleeker look.

Apart from customers, manufacturers also benefit from using Covestro materials, because they can be processed much more efficiently than conventional solutions. With direct coating/direct skinning technology, interior components can be molded and coated in a single step. That saves on production time and material, for a two-fold increase in efficiency.

This video shows how the steering wheel of the future might look thanks to this method:

The perfect drive: seating comfort
High seating comfort is crucial to a feeling of well-being on the interior. Car seats made of polyurethane flexible foam from Covestro offer significant ergonomic advantages over seats made of other materials. For example, it is possible to make the outer region of a seat firmer than the middle. A passenger benefits from a seat that is both stable and pleasantly soft. We also are working nonstop to make our polyurethane foams lighter, so as to reduce vehicle fuel consumption.
LEDs last 20 times longer than incandescent bulbs, and convert 90 percent of the energy into light; incandescent bulbs only make it to 10 percent.

Lighting technology

Cars in a new light

Cardyon Technologie

Car brands can even be recognized in the dark by their headlamps, which lend a vehicle a distinctive and unmistakable look. The look of a car is greatly influenced by the design of its headlamps. Polycarbonate offers a number of advantages over glass for this application: it supports a high degree of design freedom and is simpler and more cost-efficient to process. These factors lead to entirely new lighting designs and headlamps. The material also promotes the trend toward LEDs, because lenses made of polycarbonate focus and guide light from the diodes to create an optimal field of view.

Learn more:

Placing emphasis: design
The extensive design freedom afforded by polycarbonate is a decisive advantage especially for designing the headlamps, because manufacturers prefer new, unique and recognizable designs for the “eyes” of their vehicles. Such designs can be implemented more effectively with polycarbonate than they can with glass, which is one reason why virtually all headlamp diffusers today are made of polycarbonate. Polycarbonate also cuts a good figure on the back of a vehicle: entire tailgates can be molded from this material in a single step, with integrated blinkers, brake lights and taillights.
Made of tough stuff: durability
Polycarbonate is extremely impact-resistant. This is an important property for headlamps that are exposed to heavy gravel impact. The material helps to extend the service life not only on the outside of a headlamp, but also on the inside: LED lenses made of polycarbonate instead of glass provide an optimal field of view.
Conservative material use: sustainability
Headlamps and LED lenses made of polycarbonate make a car lighter and therefore more fuel-saving in two ways. First, the material weighs only half as much as glass. Second, it refracts light more strongly, meaning that the lenses can be of thinner, material-saving design. Furthermore, the injection molding process used by Covestro supports high-level precision, which means that polycarbonate lenses can be fabricated more economically than conventional glass lenses.
The number of electric cars in Germany is to increase 40-fold from 2016 to 2020.

Electric mobility

Green light for greater efficiency

Cardyon Technologie

Experts agree that the future of mobility is electric. To ensure that the transition from combustion engine to widespread e-mobility succeeds, the manufacturers of battery-driven vehicles still have several, critical challenges to overcome. Covestro materials can help them.

Learn more:

Compensating for the battery: reducing weight
Efficient lightweight technologies play a more central role for electric cars than they do for those with a combustion engine, because the heavy weight of the batteries must be compensated for elsewhere in a vehicle. Our high-tech materials contribute in a variety of ways: rigid and flexible polyurethane foams, structural components made of polyurethane/carbon composites, and polycarbonate as a substitute for glass. All these technologies reduce weight and therefore increase efficiency compared to conventional materials.
All-around safety: protection and insulation
Polycarbonate also exhibits its diverse advantages when it comes to protecting the battery. Housings made of this plastic are an outstanding shield against both low temperatures and fire. The same applies for charging station housings, which additionally must offer protection against vandalism.

Furthermore, polycarbonate is a better insulator than glass, which translates into advantages for thermal management. This property is likewise virtually tailored to the demands of e-mobility, because the energy required for heating cannot be diverted from the heat generated by the engine, but rather must come from the battery. In other words, the less a vehicle needs to be heated or cooled, the more power remains for the battery and vehicle range.