Automakers are changing with the times. Climate protection is the topic dominating public debate and political dialogue. By 2012, the European Union intends to limit the CO2 emissions of new cars to 130 grams per kilometer driven.
Chemicals for Cars
The current average value is 140 grams per kilometer and in 2020 it shall not exceed 95 g/km. So the developers clearly have their work cut out for them. After all, even environmentally conscious car buyers don’t want to sacrifice comfort, safety, or driving enjoyment. This is where modern chemicals can help. New high-performance plastics are making cars lighter and more aerodynamic, and chemicals are boosting the performance of batteries and aggregates. New types of rubber are being used to make tires that are safer and contribute to improved fuel economy. New materials can also play a key role in making cars more affordable and more attractive. But above all, chemicals are helping automakers to take on one of the greatest challenges of our time: climate protection.
Lightweight design is trendy
It’s a very simple equation: the heavier the car, the more fuel it will burn. A 100-kilogram weight reduction saves up to 0.4 liter of fuel per 100 kilometers. But no one should have to sacrifice the comfort provided by air conditioning and window lifters, not to mention safety equipment like airbags or side impact protection. That’s why engineers have to look elsewhere to reduce vehicle weight. Thanks to modern plastics, today it’s possible to build cars that are lighter but also more stable. One such technical plastic is Durethan from LANXESS, which is used as a composite with steel or aluminum. This material is used to produce body parts that can withstand the highest loads but are 30 to 40 percent lighter and less expensive than conventional parts. Plastic materials account for up to 20 percent of a typical car today, and that percentage is bound to rise significantly.
More efficient use of fuel is one possible way of reducing CO2 emissions. And that is also related to weight, although indirectly. With lighter trucks and containers, for example, more cargo can be transported without exceeding gross vehicle weights. That reduces the number of kilometers driven. LANXESS puts it into practice: trucks with lightweight trailers transport cargo between the LANXESS locations Krefeld-Uerdingen and Antwerp. This increases the trucks’ payload by ten percent, resulting in savings of 150 trips annually. The result is a decrease of 50,000 kilometers driven per year and fuel savings totaling 15,000 liters of diesel fuel.
When developing climate protection and efficiency-boosting measures, there is one area above all that must be preserved, and that’s safety. Consumers and manufacturers alike are very demanding when it comes to the materials that are used in cars. No driver feels secure in a car with simple “plastic” bumpers or tires that were designed solely for minimal rolling resistance. Modern chemicals from LANXESS ensure that new materials provide an even higher level of safety for vehicle occupants. Plastics designed for very specific applications, including Durethan and Pocan, are therefore not only lighter and more affordable; their “crash” behavior is also superior to that of conventional sheet steel. As composite materials, they are used for applications including bumpers and entire frontends of cars.
Specialty chemicals enable high-class design solutions
In addition to criteria such as comfort, safety, and economy, personal taste also plays a role in every auto purchase. Customers want cars with stylish design, a choice of attractive colors, and high-quality interiors. Modern chemicals can help here as well. Today, inorganic pigments like those from LANXESS are being used to produce brilliant paints that not only look great in the showroom but are also weather-resistant and easy to care for. They remain stable despite the effects of light and the elements, lend themselves well to processing, and enable manufacturers to meet the demand for the latest trendy colors.
In auto interiors, chemicals ensure that leather seats meet the highest standards. LANXESS supplies leather producers with all the chemicals they need – including inorganic and synthetic tanning agents, preservatives and lubricants, and tanning and finishing agents. And by using special stains from LANXESS, the leather designers can satisfy nearly every wish when it comes to the color palettes of car interiors. What’s more, the soil-repellent finish Aquaderm X-Shield® from LANXESS keeps leather clean for longer periods of time.
Innovative products support electro-mobility
Chemicals from LANXESS also are key solutions for the innovative drive systems of the future. A very promising technology in this field is the fuel cell, which generates power from hydrogen and oxygen, releasing only harmless water vapor into the environment. The principle behind the fuel cell has been known for 170 years, but the technology has only recently become mature enough for everyday use in cars. That has become possible thanks to developments including a new generation of ion exchangers that LANXESS has developed in cooperation with leading automakers. With their changed chemical structure, these ion exchange resins can easily withstand the operating temperature in the fuel cell. That hasn’t been possible until now. The previous generation of ion exchangers quickly became unstable at the temperature inside the cell (about 90 degrees Celsius), rendering them ineffective.
And LANXESS is also moving the new drive systems forward on another front. The product range of Saltigo, a LANXESS subsidiary, includes vinylene carbonate, an important ingredient for lithium ion batteries. These high-performance batteries are used in hybrid vehicles.