As the mobility revolution is moving ahead, manufacturers are facing increased challenges. Not only is the development and engineering of hybrids, electric, and autonomous vehicles complex, there’s constant pressure from regulators to meet economy, safety, and sustainability requirements, along with consumer demand for performance, digital connectivity, and aesthetics. Plastics can play a key role in many ways, from lightweighting through metal replacement, to using bio-based feedstocks. Recycled-containing content into the make-up of a resin is another way to create a solution with a lower footprint, without sacrificing material performance.
Along with the technological challenges that come from developing the next phase of our mobility journey, automakers must also contend with increasingly stringent emissions regulations and changing consumer perception.
Smaller displacement engines and electrification are two of the solutions used to comply with regulation, but there are other areas where plastics can play a key role, such as lightweighting through metal replacement.
The next step in this journey is reducing the CO2 footprint of the materials that make up the vehicle by using, for example, plastics with recycled content in safety applications.
One of Trinseo’s Tier 1 partners were approached by their customer in the development phase of a new premium SUV, with the request to change the proposed PC/ABS material for the top roll and support of the vehicle’s doors with a more sustainable grade for series production. This request came as a result of the OEM’s ambitious environmental initiative, which, among other goals, aims to offer a fully-carbon neutral passenger car fleet by 2039.
To meet the customer’s request, the Tier 1 supplier validated a more sustainable PC/ABS compound against the manufacturer’s stringent standard, that could work as a drop-in solution with the injection molding tools, and within the tight project schedule.
Trinseo’s PULSE™ GX50 PC/ABS was used by the Tier partner for the development phase, and the PULSE™ GX50 ECO PC/ABS with recycled-containing polycarbonate was selected as the more sustainable solution for series production. Trinseo’s PULSE™ GX50 is widely used for the manufacturing of door panel parts for several existing models of the premium OEM; the selection was approved for use in the development phase of the SUV’s door panel, while the more sustainable version was tested in parallel as a drop-in solution for models using Trinseo’s all-prime material.
The PULSE™ GX50 ECO PC/ABS is made with 30% recycled content, and it is developed using Trinseo’s exclusive PULSE™ GX technology. The material is comparable in performance to its all-prime equivalent and comes with strong technical features, including superior flow properties, low temperature ductility, and low density. The backbone of PULSE™ GX50 ECO is Trinseo MAGNUM™ ABS, meaning that, inherently, it has low volatile organic compounds (VOC), making it ideal for interior applications.
Testing validated that PULSE™ GX50 ECO is a drop-in equivalent of its all-prime counterpart, meeting the requirements set by the OEM’s standards and the crash performance on the existing platform, where it was used for the final validation round of the SUV project.
Following the excellent results in testing, the PULSE™ GX50 ECO material was transitioned to the current platform as well, emphasizing the more sustainable product’s performance and lower CO2 footprint compared to all-prime equivalent.
Trinseo delivers about four kilograms of PULSE™ GX50 ECO PC/ABS for each vehicle, a solution whose Lifecycle analysis (LCA) shows a lower CO2 impact compared to the all-prime equivalent.The LCA compared the difference in global warming potential (CO2 emissions), water, and energy consumption to that of its all-prime counterpart and, in all cases, Trinseo’s PULSE™ GX50 ECO was a more sustainable solution, with 29 percent less energy and 22 percent lower water consumption and 24 percent less global warming potential. Over the lifetime of the project, the decision to switch to a recycled-content containing resin will save approximately 5,500 tons of CO2*.
*amount of CO2 saved based on actual current projection for this vehicle’s production run, and PULSETM GX ECO’s lower CO2 footprint compared to its all prime counterpart; data from third party, independently reviewed LCA according to ISO 14040/14044.