This is part one of a two-part series that explores how automotive interiors will change with the rise of electric and autonomous vehicles.
The way we think about automotive interiors is changing and 71% of automotive executives expect interior to become more important as a recent McKinsey survey  shows. As electric vehicles (EVs) become more widely produced, automakers are adapting car cabin designs to meet the needs of new technologies and remove obsolete parts, including new open spaces and more specialized materials. Trinseo is at the forefront of these developments, providing the necessary materials to support innovation and the sustainability goals of EV manufacturers.
Changing Car Cabin Designs
Electrification provides an opportunity for car cabin designers to redesign the vehicle interior.
Current automotive interiors are based on the performance demands of gasoline-powered vehicles, and those demands will be different once electric. An example is how the combustion engine is connected to the rear axle through the mid-channel, which runs through the center of the car. In the interior it appears as the center console. This mid-channel will no longer be necessary in EVs, and the storage space between the driver and front-passenger can be opened up to new shapes and designs.
Trinseo continues to develop solutions that can assist car cabin designers with these forthcoming trends, with durable, higher-end plastics like the ENLITE™ LGF that elevate the appearance of such areas with smoothly integrated and floating details.
Adaptive Plastics for New Challenges
New consumer concerns will emerge as we transition to EVs, and our materials solutions will need to meet evolving demands. One thing we already learned is that EVs produce limited noise.
This quiet driving environment no longer muffles the vibrations and squeaks of vehicle parts, which can impact customer perception of quality and performance for EVs. In response, Trinseo is developing materials addressing “Noise, Vibration and Harshness” (MAGNUM™ NVH ABS, PULSE™ NVH PC/ABS) to contribute to a reduction in noise, thus providing the end consumers a premium, tranquil driving experience.
When discussing the future of the automotive industry, we cannot neglect the environmental impact. One purpose of EVs is to reduce environmental contamination from fossil fuel emissions while driving. However, approximately 20-30% of a vehicle’s lifetime CO2 emissions are already generated by its materials and during production.
That’s why Trinseo is working to ensure the inside of the vehicle is as sustainable as its propulsion by investigating the use of second-use plastics that are processed through advanced recycling methods to meet the same quality standards as virgin-materials. By creating a circular pathway for plastics that do not compromise on quality and safety like PULSE™ ECO PC/ABS, we can promote a more sustainable lifecycle for the whole vehicle.
And we can go beyond that, providing our customer spacy interiors with a lasting, premium appearance – without the need of CO2-emitting surface painting – can be addressed with low gloss trim parts based on our novel and leading UV-stabilized solutions (PULSE™ UVB PC/ABS).
The use of sustainable feedstocks (e.g. biobased Styrene), finally allows Trinseo to offer bio-attributed plastics, with an immediate and significant reduction in carbon footprint, while offering the same performance of our benchmark plastics. This makes bio-attributed prime products like MAGNUM™ BIO ABS the ideal candidate for building the bridge towards our vision of full-circular plastics based on end-of-life (ELV) vehicles.
EVs will not only revolutionize the way vehicles are powered, but also how they look and feel. Materials and spaces that have not been of focus before will move to the forefront as the car cabin becomes multifunctional as a secondary gathering space or as a private sanctuary. As we continue to learn and improve EVs, we’ll also be looking at opportunities to innovate the inside for a smoother, more calming ride with materials that also match the goals of sustainable mobility. While already developing the next generation of solutions, our recent product additions in the field of LGF, NVH, ECO and BIO already contribute to improvements wanted today.
EVs are only the first step in the automotive evolution of the 21st century. Full autonomous vehicles will come next, changing the design philosophy of the car cabin again. Part two of this series will explore how the interior will need to adapt for autonomous vehicles.
 McKinsey & Company’s global 2020 ACES Survey https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/automotive-and-assembly/our-insights/the-future-of-interior-in-automotive#