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News

GE Drives Full Speed Ahead with Breakthrough Material Solutions for More Fuel-Efficient Cars

GE Advanced Materials : 04 April, 2005  (Technical Article)
Since the late 1960s, groundbreaking technologies from GE Advanced Materials have helped the automotive industry build best-selling vehicles offering world-class performance, style, safety, reduced costs, weight, and emissions.
Since the late 1960s, groundbreaking technologies from GE Advanced Materials have helped the automotive industry build best-selling vehicles offering world-class performance, style, safety, reduced costs, weight, and emissions. These GE technologies have also contributed to significant fuel savings for the consumer. Through science, GE has helped automotive manufacturers build lighter and more fuel-conserving vehicles.

GE is creating innovative, ecologically optimized solutions to support the global automotive industry’s work to address a range of adverse impacts on the environment and to reduce the global consumption of energy. By offering high-performance thermoplastic resins and compounds as lightweight alternatives to metals and glass, GE is assisting the industry in its drive to build/produce cars that use less fuel and have lower emissions than previous car generations.

Reducing Vehicle Weight and Fuel Consumption with GE’s High-Performance Engineering Resins

Plastics play a major role in today’s vehicles. Plastics can be found today in bumpers, fuel tanks, body panels, battery housings, instrument panels, wire, lighting, electronics, and many other automotive applications. Plastics can help reduce fuel use and emissions; according to the American Plastics Council, (APC) a vehicle’s gas mileage increases by five percent for every 10 percent taken from its weight. According to the APC, plastics in some vehicles have contributed to reducing weight by up to 700 pounds. Industry sources claim that 257 pounds, (116 kilograms) of the total weight of an average vehicle is comprised of plastics. Likewise, in a study published by the Association of Plastics Manufacturers in Europe, a car with 7.5 percent of its total weight consisting of plastics, and driven over 93,000 miles (150,000 km) during its service life would use approximately 264 US gallons (1000 liters) less fuel than a car using traditional metal and/or glass components (based on a 15 year service life). This would be a total savings of $1,600 per vehicle (based on an average price of $1.60 per liter), a common price for fuel in Europe. An estimated total of 4 billion pounds (1.8 billion kilograms) of plastic was used on automobiles worldwide in 1999, increasing to 5.1 billion pounds (2.3 billion kilograms) by 2009.

Today GE sells a significant amount of its engineering thermoplastic resins into the automotive industry in over 19 vehicle brands produced by OEMs worldwide and to well over 80% of the industry. According to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in the UK, in 1999 the global automotive industry produced 46.7 million passenger cars. By 2002 the industry was forecast to produce nearly 50 million cars and around 9 million MPVs and SUVs, and by 2005 over 52.7 million cars. Based on these statistics, advanced materials used in today’s automobiles can help save consumers nearly $4.9 billion per year in fuel. GE is aggressively investing in the expansion of its advanced materials portfolio to provide an even wider range of solutions for automotive manufacturers. GE’s continued investment will help reduce emissions to the environment, and further increase weight-out opportunities for the industry without compromising performance and safety.

Some of GE’s key applications include:

• GE glazing systems, which can lighten the automotive load by up to 50 percent by replacing glass with glazing solutions, which also offer greater parts integration, excellent aesthetics, styling and weathering performance, and reduce tooling costs.

• Fenders and tailgates incorporating NORYL GTX* resin instead of steel could be made 40 percent lighter, and provide a combined added value of styling freedom and high impact resistance.

• Under-the-hood components, such as electronic throttle bodies, can weigh up to 50 percent less when constructed from GE’s heat-resistant ULTEM* resin grades.

• GE’s brand of LNP* specialty compounds offer lightweight alternatives to metal, as well as a diversity of customized performance qualities for specialized applications.

• Automotive electronics typically wired with cross-linked polyethylene (PE) can be made 21 percent lighter by using flexible NORYL* CRX resin instead.

• GE also offers a range of other lightweight alternatives to metal for wiper systems, machined brackets, transmission components, fuel systems, valve covers, thermostat housings, compressor housings, and die-cast or machined parts.

Other Consumer Benefits

GE’s resins and compounds can also help consumers extend the useful life of vehicles with components that are more resistant to corrosion, heat, and impact. GE is investing in new resin and composite technologies that are intended to allow more interior space and passenger comfort, increased color retention and higher gloss, and that provide greater design freedom. Improved design capability, based on GE’s materials, could enable automotive designers to create colorful and easily replaceable body panels and components. One possible result: automobiles could also be sold with the option of “two cars within one”, with accessories that totally change the look and feel of the car and that could represent greater efficiency, performance, and style combined in one package.

“GE is working hard to contribute to the development of vehicles that support our customers’ efforts to reduce fuel emissions as required by more stringent environmental regulations, and to help shape an automotive industry that uses the planet’s natural resources more wisely,” said Greg Adams, vice president, GE Advanced Materials, Automotive. “GE is a leader in advanced material solutions that can help meet design challenges for vehicle performance, safety, and style.”
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