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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Cars in a new light
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.
Green light for greater efficiency
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.
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.