June 18, 2024
Electric Vehicle Plastics

Electric Vehicle Plastics Industry: The Growing Demand for Plastics in Electric Vehicles

Use of Electric Vehicle Plastics Industry

Electric vehicles use lightweight materials like plastics and composites extensively to reduce weight and increase driving range. Plastics are 30-50% lighter than traditional vehicle materials like steel. Reducing vehicle weight is critical for EVs as it allows manufacturers to fit in larger battery packs without compromising payload capacity. Plastics are replacing metal components in areas like interior panels, bumpers, fenders, hoods and trunk lids where weight savings can be maximized. The battery pack and electric motors also rely on plastic encasings and housings to reduce weight.

Role of Electric Vehicle Plastics Industry and Composites

Thermoplastics like polypropylene (PP), acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) and polycarbonate (PC) are the preferred plastics for EV applications due to their superior formability and recyclability. PP is used extensively in instrument panels, consoles, door panels, seats etc due to its strength, flexibility and low density. ABS is used in exterior body panels and structural components because of its Impact resistance. Polycarbonate finds application in lightweight roof panels. Fiber-reinforced composites using long glass or carbon fibers in a thermoplastic matrix are also gaining traction for structural components. Composites provide stiffness, strength and corrosion resistance while keeping weight low.

Interior Cabin Plastics

Interior Electric vehicles Plastics components account for a significant portion of the plastic usage in an electric vehicle. Plastics are the material of choice for instrument panels, door panels, consoles, seats etc. Soft-touch thermoplastic elastomers (TPEs) and thermoplastic polyurethanes (TPUs) are preferred for surfaces that need good grip,feel and comfort. Semi-rigid PC/ABS blends are used as the substrate material for their strength and formability. Decorative films and overlays enhance aesthetics. Integrated lighting, speakers and other electronics require specialized high-performance engineered plastics. Recyclable materials and designs help achieve sustainability goals.

Exterior Body Panels and Modules

Exterior body panels aim to reduce air drag and maximize driving range. Composite body panels are gaining traction but most economical EVs still rely on molded thermoplastics. PP, ABS, PC/ABS are leading choices due to sustainability, affordability, design freedom and recycling potential. Hoods, front-ends, fenders, doors etc. are typically made of 2-5 mm thick molded panels. Thicker reinforced panels are used around passenger doors and for cargo flooring. Larger exterior plastic modules containing body sides, roof, cargo door and other parts integrate multiple functions. Weatherability, Class A finishes, impact resistance and lightweight properties are key design criteria.

Under-the-Hood Components

The electric powertrain requires a different set of under-the-hood plastic components compared to internal combustion engines. Parts like battery cooling units, electric motor enclosures, junction block inserts, fluid containers need especially engineered plastics. Properties like heat resistance, chemical resistance, impact strength and lightweight characteristics are crucial. Liquid crystal polymers (LCP), polyphenylene sulfide (PPS), polyether ether ketone (PEEK) find increasing use due to their high performance capabilities. Structural bonded parts and plastic-metal hybrid designs optimize weight and performance. Durability under extreme temperature variations is also critical.

Role of Recycling and Sustainable Practices

Sustainable material selection and recycling-friendly design principles are important considerations for EV plastics. Post-consumer recyclability of commonly used thermoplastics like PP, ABS, PC enables efficient recovery of end-of-life components. Mono-material construction and minimal paint/coatings aid dismantling and shredding processes. Adaptation of recycled plastics content helps advance the circular economy.

*Note:
1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it