Indian automotive industry is on the cusp of a major transformation. On one hand, the passenger vehicle sales in India are soaring (it crossed the 3 million mark in 2017-18). While on the other, the government is forcing industry to follow low-emission path for new vehicles and incentivising purchase of electric and hybrid vehicles under the FAME-India scheme. Adding woes to the challenging automotive market is the fact that the demand this festive season is showing signs of some fatigue which will have an effect on orders ahead.
To tide over these testing times, auto OEMs are focusing on innovations, which demand light weighting and customisation in a vehicle, with renewed vigour. Car buyers are also becoming increasingly demanding when it comes to the functionality and design of their vehicles. Thus, auto makers are demanding more versatile and high-quality materials from their suppliers to produce innovative products that meet customer's expectations.
With the growing need to make cars more fuel-efficient and aerodynamic, auto makers are increasingly looking to replace metal, which was widely used to account for the sturdiness and safety of vehicles, with plastic parts. Soon plastics in a vehicle are likely to overtake metals in terms of volume as they are stronger than steel and half the weight of aluminium.
By 2020, the average car is anticipated to incorporate nearly 350 kg of plastics, up from 200 kg in 2014. While several types of plastics find application in the automotive industry, polypropylene, polyurethane and PVC together make up approximately 66 per cent of the total plastics used in a vehicle.
Growing demand for electric vehicles is adding new dimensions to product development. The performance of an electric vehicle needs a fascinating amalgamation of aerodynamics and acoustics. This vehicle needs the right materials to make it lightweight to be more efficient in terms of the performance (mileage/distance per charge), insulation, battery thermal management, etc.
Electric vehicles, though still at a nascent stage, will throw up a different set of opportunities like connectors and components around the battery areas where the temperatures are high. To tap this and similar such opportunities, material manufacturers are working closely with OEMs and tier suppliers. For example, Solvay is developing a full range of electro-friendly materials for sensors and connectors and even high-purity materials for fuel cell applications. Similarly, liquid silicone rubber (LSR) is rapidly gaining significance in the production of high-quality LED lighting systems in automotives.
Growing concerns about emissions and global warming have forced the government to bring in regulation for changing the emission norms from BS IV to BS VI by April 2020. With higher emission norms the engines get smaller in size and create more heat which in turn needs high performance plastics which can endure heat.
Thus, whether it is lightweighting or customisation or electric vehicles challenge, plastics has answer to all.
Happy Diwali to All Readers!