Results of the recently released WardsAuto survey, now in its fifth year and sponsored by DuPont Automotive, show that lightweighting and engine efficiency once again top the list of strategies the auto industry is using to meet 2025 CAFÉ (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards, and materials are key.
However, the results also strongly indicate that all technologies are getting more emphasis as the mid-term review deadline looms.
The mid-term review by the EPA and NHTSA in 2016-2017 is designed to determine technology readiness and ability to implement at acceptable cost, with a final decision due April 2018. The light-duty vehicle CAFÉ and GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions rate standards require, on an average industry fleet-wide basis, 163 g/miles of CO2 in model year 2025, which would be equivalent to 54.5 mpg (4.3 L/100km) if this level were achieved solely through improvements in fuel efficiency.
Transmission technologies, new to this year’s survey, and electrification form the second tier of strategies, according to the nearly 900 respondents in the automotive design and engineering community. Says Jeff Sternberg, DuPont Automotive technology director, “Lightweighting is a universal approach because it can be applied to every system and every component and it amplifies the impact of the other strategies. Electrification, which saw one of the largest increases in mention this year, is fast becoming another universal strategy. Light electrification, such as start/stop, regenerative braking systems and transmission and engine controls, is expanding across the light vehicle fleet.”
With the mid-term review around the corner, 86% of the respondents say they expect the standards to strengthen or remain the same. At the same time, 87% say low gas prices in combination with low sales of fuel-efficient, low-emission vehicles will impact programs to meet CAFÉ regulations. Notes Sternberg, “The responses might suggest that the industry is backing off technologies that lower emission and improve fuel economy…but, it’s important to remember the global automotive industry has to navigate emissions regulations throughout the world, so we still need to run full-steam ahead. That said, the current market dynamic is certain to spark some likely debate during the mid-term reviews.”
Meanwhile, materials matter! This year once again, survey respondents point to aluminum and multi-material solutions as the materials that can best help them meet CAFÉ standards. Engineering plastics and advanced high-strength steel comprise the second tier. Respondents continue to express “moderate confidence” that today’s material are sufficient to meet the future standards.
Says Sternberg, “We’re pretty bullish on the impact that material can have on lightweighting and new solutions continue to be introduced. But materials alone are not enough when it comes to reducing vehicle weight in the 10-15% range. Those big opportunities require fundamental changes in design, manufacturing and assembly as well. These more ‘disruptive technology’ developments are taking longer, but the work is moving forward. High-volume adoption by 2025 may be optimistic for some of them, as we are just a little more than two vehicle model cycles away, but I’m confident we will see an impact.”
Want to find or compare materials data for different resins, grades, or suppliers? Check out Plastics Technology’s Plaspec Global materials database.