The increasing use of composites materials in the automotive industry
Composites penetration growth in the automotive industry is the second largest after the aerospace sector in term of revenue. Composites are being used in luxury and sports cars, buses and rolling stocks for almost two decades. Use of these materials had previously been difficult in term of mass production of vehicles due to their special fabrication processes and lack of the development of mass volume fabrication technology.
However, in 2013, BMW’s i3 series demonstrated that composites materials could be used in mass production of cars. BMW is now using composites materials to produce i7 series. Following BMW, other major automotive producers announced to streamline composites materials in their planned models.
One of the key drivers for the composites adoption in the automotive industry is its weight reduction attribute, ideal for lower fuel consumption and carbon emissions. In buses and rolling stocks, glass fibre composites are being used due to their lower materials and fabrication costs compared to steel.
Currently, composites are being used in the non-structural components, like body penal, doors exteriors and interior of the car body. However, many companies have recently announced to start using composites in structural components such as car chassis. Besides the fibre reinforced polymers, there is also some metal matrix composite used in the vehicles for some abrasive resistant applications like ball bearing of the wheel.
Another modern application of composites materials is transition metal oxide nano-composite based catalytic converters. These pollution control devices are far lower in cost than noble metal-based catalytic converters. Unlike noble metal catalytic converter which is made by coating sole noble metals like gold and platinum on the metal substrate, the transition metal composite catalytic converter is composed of more than one transition metals present in the catalytic converter in the form of a composite mixture.
Commercially available catalytic converters are very expensive and are in $1,000-$1,500. These costly catalytic converters give good efficiency but are made from gold and platinum and other rare earth metals which are highly expensive. The use of pricey materials increases the cost of the catalytic converter and limits the use of these devices to the countries where emission control standard are high. Presence of precious metals in the catalytic converters also raises the theft issues.
These transition metal oxides composite catalytic converters have not been commercialised yet. However, they have the high potential to be prevalent in developing countries because of their low cost and easy fabrication.
Transition metal composite catalytic converters are prepared using nanoparticles synthesis techniques. Copper, Cerium and Manganese are the most efficient transition metals for such cost-effective catalytic converters. Combination of these three transition metals in the composite form produces the synergic effect for the conversion of toxic gases in the car muffler.
The global automotive industry is experiencing a substantial growth in all major regions, which is set to boost the catalytic converter demand. If the transition metal catalytic converter enters the market, it can change the market for noble metal catalyst due to the enormous cost differences. However, the primary downside risk for catalytic converters demand is the electric and hybrid vehicles adoptions.
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This article is based on our upcoming report “ The Global Composites Market Outlook 2018-2028”.