The Green Car of the Year Award celebration is a good time to highlight how plastics make possible many of the innovations that lead to greener cars.
Plastics makers work together with the entire automotive value chain to help create lighter vehicles, increase fuel efficiency, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, providing more sustainable solutions for today and tomorrow.
Fuel Economy Challenges and Solutions
Automakers must achieve corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. To meet these standards, automakers increasingly are turning to strong, lightweight plastics and composites to reduce weight. In fact, today lightweight plastics make up at least 50 percent of a vehicle’s volume—but only 10 percent of its weight. Every 10 percent reduction in weight can lead to 6-8 percent increase in fuel economy.
What does increasing the use of lightweight plastics in vehicles mean for the environment? Simply put: a lighter environmental footprint. The consulting firm Trucost performs environmental studies for many groups, including the United Nations Environment Programme. Trucost recently compared the environmental “costs” of using plastics with the environmental costs of using other materials. These costs come from a wide range of environmental impacts, such as energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, materials and resources used, manufacturing, use (driving), and disposal or recycling.
Trucost found that using plastics in 2015 passenger vehicles in North America:
- results in $2.4 billion in environmental costs savings;
- results in $162 per vehicle in environmental cost savings; and
- saves 89 million gallons of gasoline and diesel over the lifetime of these vehicles.
Why the reduced environmental costs for plastics? In large part because light weighted vehicles consume less energy to move every single mile for their entire useful life. Using less fuel can mean much lower emissions and cleaner air for us all. And these savings can multiply globally.
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