4 Ways Plastics Are Making Cars More Sustainable
One of the most common concerns about plastic is its effect on the environment, whether they can be recycled or if they will end up in a landfill or in the ocean. However, there are some ways that plastics benefit the environment, and nowhere is that more evident than in the automobile industry. Our automotive injection molding and thermoforming company is exploring new innovations and changes that make plastic the sustainable, eco-friendly option in car manufacturing!
Plastics Improve Fuel Efficiency
Most vehicles on the road today are made of about 50 percent plastic by volume – everything from bumpers and headlight covers to dashboards and door handles are made from various thermoplastic materials. However, these plastic parts and components only make up about 10 percent of the vehicles’ weight.
Using plastic instead of metal or other materials makes the car much lighter, putting less strain on the engine and improving fuel efficiency. Think about trunk tubs – for a long time, they were made from steel and weighed several hundreds of pounds. By switching to automotive thermoforming to mold trunk bins out of plastic, the vehicle is lighter without sacrificing safety or functionality.
Plastics are also able to be shaped in a way that makes the car more aerodynamic, so there’s minimal effect on performance with this decrease in weight. Because 95 percent of a car’s environmental impact occurs during use, rather than when it’s being scrapped, this improvement in fuel efficiency can make a massive impact!
Plastics Increase Vehicle and Vehicle Part Lifespan
As much as we want them to, automobiles and their individual parts aren’t made to last forever. Over time, they wear out or are damaged beyond repair and while they may be stripped for parts that are salvageable, often, they end up rusting and rotting in a landfill or a junkyard. By extending the lifespan of individual components or the car itself, we can keep them out of the landfills and on the road.
Using durable, lightweight plastics in automotive manufacturing are a necessary component in making sure cars last longer. Like we mentioned above, a lightweight vehicle puts less strain on an engine, but it goes deeper than that. It also puts less strain on braking systems, transmission, and other systems as well.
In addition to the weight, plastics improve durability. For example, plastic parts and casing used to protect wires and cables are resistant to damage, degradation, and corrosion. Because cars and trucks are constantly exposed to the elements like extreme changes in temperature, moisture, road chemicals, and road salt, having plastics that can stand up to those factors will keep your car out of the repair shop or the junkyard.
Increase in Automotive Plastic Recycling
While vehicles are lasting longer thanks to plastic, around 12 million cars, trucks, and other vehicles a year reach their “end of life.” Fortunately, much of the vehicle is now able to be recycled or reused into new parts due to innovations in the auto recycling industry.
For decades, steel, rubber, and glass vehicle parts could be recycled with relative ease, while much of the plastic could not due to chemical exposure, odors, and fillers like rubber or glass fibers. Today, even things like fluid tanks, reinforced plastics, and even filters and battery components can be processed so that odors, fillers, and residues are removed and the plastics themselves recycled into new materials.
Car Manufacturers Are Using Recycled Automotive Plastics
Not only are more car parts getting recycled, but more recycled plastics are going back into vehicles. Here are some examples of vehicles that are giving new life to old plastics:
- Jeep Grand Cherokee uses recycled polyurethane foam plastic for their seat cushions, keeping about 180,000 pounds of foam out of landfills each year.
- Jeep Wrangler and Chrysler 200 wheel liners are made from 64 percent recycled plastic.
- The Nissan Leaf and Ford FusionEnergy both use recycled soda bottles for use in their seats.
- Mitsubishi I-Miev relies on recycled polypropylene to make the electric car’s bumpers, instrument panel, and door trim.
Contact Us for Automotive Plastics
At Advanced Plastiform, we use a wide variety of thermoplastic materials in our automotive injection molding and thermoforming processes, many of which can be recycled and reused.