Archive for June, 2011

Lighter Weight Material

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

Pop Quiz: What was the average price of a gallon of gas over Memorial Weekend?

According to ABC News, the cost was $3.79. Seriously! Now, I know I may be dating myself, but I remember when I could easily fill up a tank of gas on a mid-sized Sedan for well under $20. No matter what your household income, I think $3.79 is a bit tough to swallow for a regular family. Throw in a bad economy and high unemployment rates, and it’s no wonder people are traveling less and opting for “staycations” instead of good old family road trips across the country.

Unfortunately, the average consumer can’t control the cost of gas. But what we can often control is the type of vehicle we drive and the amount of gas that vehicle will consume by purchasing a more fuel efficient car. And that’s where FlexForm Technologies can help car manufacturers improve their vehicles to attract more conscientious buyers – by decreasing gross vehicle weight and therefore increasing gas mileage.

Plastics currently make up 10% of a vehicle, and some of these plastics have heavy fillers such as glass fibers for added strength. Glass fibers and wood are typical ingredients associated with automotive plastics. An alternative to wood or glass fiber is a natural fiber. A natural fiber reinforced plastic is showing up to a 30% weight reduction, and is 25% stronger on average than a wood fiber reinforced thermoplastics. Using a natural fiber composite material in a vehicle is not a new concept; seatbacks, door panels, package trays, side and back walls, rear deck trays, pillars, door bolsters, center consoles, trunk trim, load floors and headliners are just some of the products made from natural fiber.

On May 23, 2011, General Motors announced that they are eliminating the spare tire in their new compact car, the Chevrolet Cruze, to deliver better fuel economy. The elimination of the spare tire will result in a reduction of 26 pounds off the vehicles weight, and will improve the vehicles miles per gallon (mpg). Reducing vehicle weight by eliminating items is one way for auto manufacturers to improve fuel efficiency; another is by substituting lighter weight material for existing heavier material. Using lighter weight material in a vehicle will eliminate some overall vehicle weight and aid in the fuel economy. FlexForm Technologies offers a lighter weight alternative, a natural fiber reinforced composite that is ideal for many vehicle applications, which can assist in further reducing the weight of a vehicle therefore increasing gas mileage.

A natural fiber composite substrate material is a strong example of an alternative material that’s light, cost effective, strong, more durable, and has better sound absorbency than the current heavier existing fiber – and it’s a green option as well. And if I could go green and get more out of my $3.79 a gallon, that’s the option I’d be looking at as a car buyer.

For further information regarding the use of natural fiber in a vehicle, visit www.FlexFormTech.com to learn about molding the future with natural fiber composites.