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Design and performance from a single source
Moving Towards the Mobility of Tomorrow
Demands on modern cars are increasing rapidly. The vehicle of the future should be chic and individual: safe, efficient and environmentally friendly, as well as solid and undemanding when it comes to maintenance. However, so long as conventional materials continue to be employed, we are reaching the limit in terms of how these characteristics can be optimized. This applies both to traditional materials such as glass and metal as well as to standard plastics that have long been used in automotive engineering.

With new materials from Covestro, the limits of what is technically feasible can be pushed: High-tech polymers, groundbreaking coatings and novel light functions enable a quantum leap into a new era of innovative mobility concepts that combine revolutionary design with a high standard of performance. Covestro is making great strides in this direction and works closely with scientists, universities and companies. The aim is to find solutions for the increasing demands – e.g. in the future technologies of e-mobility and autonomous driving.
Experts predict that there will be at least 2 billion vehicles worldwide by 2050. Each of these is a good reason to rethink what materials should be used in automotive engineering.
Source: Shell passenger car scenarios, 2014

The new Lightness of Driving

Innovative materials and processes provide new impetus where vehicle exteriors are concerned

Progress is not a means to an end when it comes to automotive engineering, but offers car manufacturers and their customers clear benefits. Covestro uses innovative materials and innovative processes to create applications that make cars more efficient and at the same time make them look better.

But that’s not all: innovations in the field of vehicle exteriors also reduce the consumption of resources in production and reduce the weight of vehicles. Covestro is thus making an important contribution to the expansion of electromobility. After all, the lighter a vehicle with electric drive is, the greater its range.

More design possibilities

Glass and metal. In automotive engineering, this combination has always been regarded as a peerless standard in the construction of windows and roofs. A high-tech solution calls this into question: transparent polycarbonate. The material combines the strengths of conventionally used materials – and at the same time overcomes their weaknesses.

In comparison to glass, polycarbonate has two decisive advantages. On the one hand, the high-tech plastic is only a maximum of half as heavy but retains comparable resistance. This makes the car more economical in terms of fuel consumption and thus more environmentally friendly. On the other hand, polycarbonate can be molded much more flexibly than glass and is therefore suitable for complex geometries. This gives car designers unprecedented freedom of design. This is a decisive competitive advantage because unique design is one of the most important criteria in order to stand out from the crowd today.

Instead of the usual structure consisting of windows, columns and roof, polycarbonate can be used to realize the entire roof area as a continuous, transparent dome. This design not only looks spectacular, but also expands passengers’ visibility to a full 360-degree panorama. The result? Luxury thanks to new perspectives and at the same time a big boost in safety for other road users.

A new directive has recently made it possible to use polycarbonate as a material for windscreens. This is a decisive step for the automotive industry, as it paves the way for innovative all-round glazing that raises the design, efficiency and safety standards of future models to a new level. Covestro will continue to support automotive manufacturers and suppliers in the future.

Novel light functions

Innovative applications in automotive lighting technology will be introduced in the coming years. Developments by Covestro are contributing to redefining car lighting with the use of holographic technology. Holographic films can be used, for example, to integrate various lighting functions into the bodywork. Due to their particularly thin properties, the films open up new possibilities for using light as a design element. The 3D effect, which is created by the backlighting of films with LEDs and reflectors, is particularly spectacular.

Innovative polycarbonate is already standard in headlamps. The material is not only light and stable, but also allows the use of energy-saving LED technology. The reason for this? The plastic is able to act as a lens and light guide. At the same time, it offers designers a great deal of freedom because polycarbonate allows headlamps to be individually designed and joined seamlessly to other components.

Inspiration for e-mobility and autonomous driving

Electric drive and autonomous cars: these two trends are on the verge of revolutionizing the foundations of mobility worldwide. However, in order to make future technologies compatible for the mass market, car manufacturers are dependent on new material solutions. Of particular importance here is, for example, the weight of the materials, because this has a direct influence on the range of an electric vehicle. Covestro experts believe it is possible to reduce weight by up to 50 percent by using polycarbonate body components. The good insulating properties of polycarbonate also help to conserve the batteries of electric vehicles because less energy is needed for the air conditioning system.

Autonomous vehicles benefit from another advantage of polycarbonate. The LiDAR sensors used for obstacle detection – the “eyes” of self-propelled cars – can be seamlessly integrated into front elements made of innovative polycarbonate as this is particularly good at conducting the infrared rays that are used.

Bio-based coating hardeners

Covestro also strives for greater sustainability in automotive coatings. The company has developed a bio-based hardener that is used in the production of clear coatings. 70 percent of the hardener’s carbon content comes from renewable raw materials, which means a massive reduction in the use of fossil resources. A clear varnish based on the hardener from Covestro has recently been applied for the first time on a test body of an Audi Q2. With regard to scratch resistance, gloss and protection against the effects of weathering, the new type of paint is in no way inferior to conventional products – despite the sustainable production process.

Renewable raw materials for coatings are capable not only of making road transport more sustainable, but also the transport of goods and people by rail. In cooperation with the Polish rail vehicle manufacturer Newag SA and Lankwitzer Lackfabrik in Berlin, Covestro has used its bio-based hardener for the first time in a railway coating, and successfully. Here, too, the innovative solution showed at least as good protective properties as petroleum-based products. In terms of abrasion resistance and the gloss stability of the paint, the new hardener surpasses even standard coatings.

More information

Materials from Covestro for exterior use
Materials from Covestro for innovative light management
Bio-based coating hardeners successfully tested on Audi Q2
Driving Visions - materials that inspire the future design of mobility solutions.
Covestro technologies for e-mobility and autonomous driving at the VDI Congress “Plastics in Automotive Engineering” 2018
Successful use of bio-based hardener in rail vehicle coatings

70 percent of under 40s in Germany expect to have secure access to their personal data in the car.

Elegance meets Versatility

Modern plastic solutions fulfill a wide range of functions in vehicle interiors

Car manufacturers and car buyers also place high demands on the interior. A vehicle should not just be inviting and of high quality, but also fulfill many practical functions: high-quality surfaces, comfortable seats and the integration of the latest technology are just a few of the keywords in this respect. Covestro’s high-tech plastics enable manufacturers to clearly differentiate themselves as well as install highly functional equipment.

At the same time, manufacturers and car buyers are expecting vehicles to become increasingly sustainable. Covestro also scores points in this area with particularly environmentally friendly applications and process technologies.

Flexible foam solutions

Rigid polyurethane foams have always been one of Covestro’s key products. They are used, among other things, for the manufacture of fittings and roof linings for cars, as they are stable and at the same time flexible and malleable. For example, technical components such as displays, loudspeakers and reading lamps can be integrated into it. But the hard foam also offers further advantages: thanks to its high insulation performance, it ensures a pleasant noise level and thermal insulation in the vehicle. This has a positive effect both in winter and summer, as energy for heating and air conditioning can be saved. This is particularly important for electric cars, as it saves battery power and increases the vehicle’s range.

It is not just Covestro rigid foam that is used in vehicle interiors, but also flexible polyurethane foam – for example in car seats. When foam with different degrees of hardness is combined in one seat, comfort increases compared to earlier materials. The trend here is also towards lightweight construction: the aim is to design seats with the same consistently high level of comfort but significantly lower weight.

Varied surfaces

The interior surfaces of a car have to perform well, because they have to look good, be resilient and at the same time be functional. Covestro has the necessary expertise in this area as well: varnishes and wafer-thin polycarbonate films give the surfaces in the car a pleasant feel and luxurious appearance. One example is the soft-feel lacquers, which are only a few hundredths of a millimeter thin and are used on handles, fittings and switches. Innovative laser engraving processes also allow the combination of matte and glossy components on the same surface, such as on a steering wheel, for example.

Covestro’s DirectCoating technology is a groundbreaking process that enables significantly more efficient production of painted plastic parts for interiors while opening up completely new design options for designers. The efficiency of DirectCoating results from a simplification of the process: The component is not cast first and then painted elsewhere as was previously customary, but instead, following production in the injection mold, it is placed in a second, slightly larger cavity into which the paint system is directly injected. A component produced in this way hardly has to be reworked and is characterized by flexibly selectable material properties. Transparency, gloss, coloring, haptic characteristics or surface structuring: thanks to DirectCoating, car designers can give free rein to their creativity.

Clear elegance

Wafer-thin polycarbonate films not only meet the required design aspects, but also possess particularly intelligent properties. With the black panel effect, for example, they ensure that displays are glare-free and only visible when they are actually needed. They can also be used for large-area displays with a 3D optical effect, making the cockpit of a vehicle clearer and more elegant, despite the increasing number of displays.

One example of this are switches with so-called “flying symbols”, which result from the interplay of several layers of printed polycarbonate films and innovative injection molding techniques. The bottom layer has a patterned reverse side while the top layer consists of a particularly scratch-resistant film. If a switch with this film structure is pressed, various three-dimensional symbols appear on the pattern on the reverse, depending on whether the films are illuminated from the side or from below.

In this way, Covestro combines design with functionality when creating the interior of a vehicle and sets new standards all round – for car manufacturers and drivers alike.

More information

Materials by Covestro for the interior
Covestro’s pioneering DirectCoating process
Innovative films for more functionality and clarity in the cockpit

“We want to encourage designers to think beyond today’s limitations and push boundaries with our materials.”
Eckhard Wenz, Technical Marketing Automotive

Creating the Future Together

Cooperation with universities and companies leads to groundbreaking ideas

New impetus is the key to fresh ideas. In order to maintain its own innovative strength, Covestro engineers are in close contact with scientists, universities and companies all over the world. These collaborations make it clear time and again that integrated solutions require integrated thinking. In the future, Covestro intends to further expand its dialog with external partners in order to use combined expertise to tackle the challenges the automotive industry will face in the future.

Defying extreme situations: “Solar Car” project

In a close collaboration between Covestro, RWTH Aachen University and FH Aachen, a group of students from both universities developed a solar-powered electric car for the world’s toughest solar car race, the World Solar Challenge 2017 in Australia. Covestro supported the “Solar Car” project by providing materials, technical service and financial support.

Covestro set itself two goals with this ambitious project: firstly, to prove that innovative and sustainable mobility concepts are already possible and feasible today. Secondly, the promotion of young and talented people who are enthusiastic about and committed to the solar car project.

The project also served to test the various Covestro materials under the harsh climatic conditions of Australia. The solar-powered vehicles were exposed to temperatures of up to 45 degrees Celsius, extreme UV radiation and a high amount of dust in the air. Among other things, a clear coating based on a Covestro bio-based hardener was tested.

Overcoming borders: “Magic Revealed” project

The cooperation between Covestro, the renowned Swedish “Umeå Institute of Design” and the Finnish design agency “Northern Works” also shows how young professionals and industry can work together successfully. As part of the project “Magic: Revealed”, Covestro invited students from Sweden to Leverkusen. The aim of the meeting was to go beyond the previous limitations of design and material and to develop completely new ideas in terms of design and functionality that can make bold visions of the future a reality for car drivers.

Today, a distinctive design is a prerequisite for a strong brand identity in automotive engineering. Polycarbonate has the decisive qualities with which the industry can now reach new dimensions. In addition to its outstanding mechanical properties, the material offers a high degree of creative freedom and opened up completely new possibilities for the students. The project participants paid particular attention to the use of polycarbonate in novel day and night lighting applications for creative surfaces as well as for integrated solutions. The success of the project was demonstrated among other things by the valuable inspiration and findings that were incorporated into the development of an automotive design study by Covestro.

Leading the way: Holographic cooperation with Hella

Together we can push the boundaries of what is technically feasible: Covestro was able to implement this project together with lighting and electronics specialist Hella. By cooperating, the companies have developed a new design for signal lighting on vehicle displays, for which holographic technology is being used for the first time. The result is a world first: holographic lighting with 3D effects and a seamless and aerodynamic design. The project is an example of successful cooperation: designers from Hella initially designed the holograms. Covestro then placed them in a transparent halogen film laminated onto a three-millimeter thick glass plate. In the future, plastic instead of glass is to be used for series production.

More information

How Covestro pushes boundaries together with partners from industry and research
Covestro as the sponsor of Team Sonnenwagen Aachen

More stories

Future-oriented mobility concepts are just one of the areas in which Covestro is pushing the boundaries of possibilities. Follow the links and learn more about our commitment to a brighter world!
#SolarImpulse
Covestro materials open new horizons – in the air and on the ground.
#CO2Dreams
Covestro is transforming the climate killer CO2 into a useful raw material.
#EfficientWindPower
Covestro helps to make wind power more economical.
#PushingBoundaries
An overview of all highlight stories.
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