Plastics and Polymer Composites Technology Roadmap for Automotive Markets

For decades, advanced plastics and polymer composites have helped improve the appearance, functionality, and safety of automobiles while also reducing vehicle weight and delivering superior value to customers. New regulations, shifts in consumer preferences, and recent technology innovations are encouraging automakers to continue increasing their use of advanced plastics and polymer composites to meet tomorrow’s challenges and opportunities.

To address these trends and help enable the increased use of plastics and polymer composites, the American Plastics Council (now the Plastics Division of the American Chemistry Council [ACC]) published the Plastics in Automotive Markets Vision and Technology Roadmap in 2001. The roadmap outlined a vision of the application of plastics and polymer composites in automobiles and the business and technology strategies needed to provide solutions for the automotive industry. In 2009, ACC updated their roadmap in response to changing industry trends. While many of the same issues discussed in the 2009 roadmap remain relevant, the automotive marketplace and regulatory drivers are significantly different from what they were only a few years ago, led by many factors including the new U.S. Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards.

ACC’s Plastics Division recognized the need to update the roadmap in response to these changes to develop an effective industry-wide strategy that will extend to 2030 and beyond. During the roadmap update process, Nexight Group conducted telephone interviews, reviewed recent literature publications, facilitated a two-day expert workshop, and engaged with three relevant professional societies. The roadmapping process engaged technical experts and leaders from the automotive and plastics and polymer composites industries, including perspectives from original equipment manufacturers, tier suppliers, material developers, researchers, federal agencies, and consultants, to discuss the current limitations to the increased use of plastics and polymer composites and to identify industry-wide actions that can accelerate the increased widespread use of these materials in future vehicles.

This roadmap synthesizes the findings from this effort and sets a path forward for the plastics and polymer composites and automotive industries through 2030. This roadmap is designed to help the automotive and plastics and polymer composites industries maintain a strong foundation upon which to build partnerships and initiate collaborative programs that address changing market needs. Although this roadmap is focused primarily on the North American automotive market, it addresses globally significant issues. Implementing this roadmap will require significant resources to accomplish both shorter-term priorities and the long-term vision for 2030 and beyond.

This roadmap was developed under the guidance of Gina Oliver, Senior Director, ACC Plastics Division Automotive Team; George Racine, ExxonMobil Chemical and ACC Auto Team Chairman; and member company representatives participating on the Auto Team (member companies and member company representatives noted in Appendix B). ACC wishes to thank Ross Brindle, Lindsay Pack, and Sarah Lichtner, all with Nexight Group, for their leadership in designing and executing the Roadmap update, as well as their expert facilitation of the stakeholder workshop and support preparing this document. ACC also thanks Jared Kosters and Warren H. Hunt, Jr., PhD, also with Nexight Group, for their outstanding technical guidance.

The automotive industry experts who made vital contributions through phone interviews, workshop attendance, and roadmap reviews, are also identified in Appendix B of this report. ACC’s Plastics Division would also like to thank the American Composites Manufacturers Association (ACMA), the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE), the Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineering (SAMPE), and the Society for Automotive Engineers (SAE) for their support and contributions to this effort.

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