Covestro launches concept electric car made of high-tech plastic

Suresh P Iyengar Dusseldof (Germany) | Updated on January 16, 2018

plastic car

Plastic car1

Months after proving that solar-powered flight can go around the world, Covestro has displayed a concept electric car made of polycarbonate, thus managing to reduce weight of the car considerably and improve its efficiency.

The company is in talks with leading global automobile companies to commercialise the concept. From the biobased, environmentally friendly coating of the PC (polycarbonate) body to the PC composite-reinforced wheel shutters, Covestro materials have been applied throughout. The car features a high degree of functional integration and a seamless design on the front. The wraparound polycarbonate glazing has integrated pillars and yield weight savings of 30-50 per cent compared to glass.

The car also offers optimised aerodynamic wheels with ‘shutters’ that can open and close for additional cooling when braking.

Together with automotive supplier Hella, Covestro has developed an innovative solution based on holographic films which can integrate lighting functions into the body parts. This can also integrate pre-programmed chips which can help to launch driver-less cars in future.

Grouping the company’s innovation under the company’s Pushing Boundaries programme, Patrick Thomas, Chief Executive Officer, Covestro said a mere six years ago what the company was doing with Solar Impulse was a ‘dream’, with most people saying it could never be done. “Now, two K Shows (conducted once in three years) later, we have done it. We’ve flown around a plane without using single drop of fuel. This flying laboratory became a testing ground for our materials," he said.

"We can replace every metal used in car-making with polycarbonate and I see no reason why this material, which is fast replacing most metal parts in cars, cannot be used in making conventional cars," said Frank H Lutz, Chief Financial Officer, Covestro while accepting that adoption of innovative products by car makers is a slow process.

The cost for companies and consumers can definitely come down drastically as it achieves scale, he said. The company is also developing new material for dealing with scratches and dents in cars.

About 50 years ago, Covestro then operating under its parent Bayer introduced the first car with plastic body at K-67. Since the it has been pushing boundaries to put on stage the electric concept car.

Asked what next with Solar Impulse, Richard Northcote, Chief Sustainability Officer, Covestro said all the companies including the government official involved in the programme would be meeting next month to cheer the success and chart the next course of action.

"Like us a few companies are committed to take this programme to next level and see how to commercialse it," he said.

The company is set to launch its first mattresses and upholstered furniture made of carbon-di-oxide based foam by end of this year. This apart, it is developing an extensive range of filaments, powders and resins for all common 3D printing methods.

While 3D printing technology is proven to be most effective fabricating prototype for efficient mass production in future, the challenge is lack of suitable materials, said Northcote.

(The writer is in Germany, at the invitation of Covestro)​

Published on October 20, 2016

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