AUG 2018


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AUGUST 2018 6 CompositesWorld COMPOSITES: PAST, PRESENT & FUTURE » Developed by Belgian-American chemist Leo Baekeland in Yonkers, NY, US, in 1907 and patented in 1909, the filled phenolic resin known as Bakelite was the first commercial composite material. Strong, electrically insulating and resistant to heat, it could be molded into almost limitless shapes. e result was disruptive. It was soon used in place of legacy materials in a broad range of products that included fountain pens, ashtrays, telephones and insulation for electrical wiring. It made a host of products affordable for the masses for the first time. Its use radi- cally altered the established supply chain for these products, and it rapidly put makers of legacy materials (shellac, for example), out of business. Today, the automotive industry is on the brink of a period of significant disruption, and high-performance phenolic composites could be a key enabler in this change. When I entered this industry in 1988, high-performance composites were considered something of a novelty. e materials had found niche applications and were selected over competi- tors based on assessments of their performance and price. Fast forward 30 years and the composites industry is a global power- house, worth tens of billions of dollars per year and still growing. e key catalyst for change in the vast majority of markets where composites now find use has been environmental legislation. e low mass of composites compared with competitors, namely metals, is now their unique selling point (USP). e auto industry is the ultimate case in point. Global regula- tions on carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) emissions are becoming increas- ingly punitive. For example, in the Europe Union (EU), the fleet average emissions figure that must be achieved by OEMs in 2021 is 95g of CO 2 /km. Failure to hit this target will trigger massive fines. In their quest to satisfy these regulatory requirements, carmakers have sought to reduce vehicle weight. A lighter car can travel farther on a given quantity of fuel, reducing the amount of CO 2 released into the atmosphere. As a result, carbon fiber composites — previously the preserve of supercars and fighter jets — have been employed in the structures of mass-production vehicles, such as BMW's i3, i8 and 7 Series, and Audi's R8 and A8. Innovative applications for glass fiber composites, used for exterior body panel production since the 1950s, continue to be developed. Under the bonnet, meanwhile, heat-resistant and dimensionally stable phenolic composites have been instrumental in the shift towards smaller, more fuel-efficient — but hotter- running — engines. Initial results have been impressive. Since 2001 we have seen a continuous decrease in CO 2 emissions from vehicles, but in 2015-16 there was a slight increase. is was due in part to the so-called Dieselgate emissions scandal. e public, particularly in Europe, started to buy more gasoline-powered vehicles in response, and there was also an increase in the sales of larger vehicles, such as SUVs. ese trends are worrying for carmakers given that fleet average emissions targets in the EU are likely to be reduced further to 75g of CO 2 /km in 2025. is is driving a move away from vehicles with conventional internal combustion engines (ICE) to those with plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and fully electric (EV) powertrains. Indeed, in China, the government has set mandatory EV production quotas for OEMs operating there to reduce tailpipe emissions. Many mainstream carmakers have announced ambitious electrification plans, and there could be well over 300 electric and hybrid electric vehicle models launched over the next three years. is will have a significant impact on the automotive supply chain. A modern ICE powertrain comprises approximately 1,500 parts. Electronic drivetrains have roughly 60 to 70 parts, depending on their complexity. Competition will be fierce amongst suppliers of ICE parts as they attempt to maintain their relevance, and some will find that their current products for such powertrains — exhaust and catalyst systems, for example — are virtually obsolete. All of this disruption creates opportunities for reinforced pheno- lics. PHEVs and EVs will need to be as light as they can be. ey are heavier than their ICE counterparts; in PHEVs this is due to the dual powertrain, the battery and the converter. In EVs, the battery is very heavy. is added mass requires a stronger chassis and bigger brakes to cope, which adds further weight, not to mention expense. In turn, this reduces the range these vehicles can travel on a single charge. Phenolic composites are light, but at Vyncolit we are targeting a number of parts in the drivetrains of PHEVs and EVs where the other properties of these materials — such as their corrosion resistance and their knack for enabling functional integration — also can shine. For instance, a number of automotive suppliers are devel- oping E-axles. PHEVs and EVs currently feature one or two electric motors at the front and one or two at the rear, together with a power converter and a control unit. All of these are separate components. In E-axles, the electric motor, power electronics and transmission are combined in a compact unit (E-motor) that directly powers the vehicle's axle. Depending on the car's size, it may require only one E-motor (e.g., the Renault Zoe, on its front axle) or several (e.g., the Tesla S P100, with three E-motors, one on the front axle, two on the rear). is aids in making electric drives less complex, cheaper, more compact and more efficient. Phenolics can be used to overmold light and strong housings for these electric drives, in a cost-effective manner. Fiber-reinforced phenolics could be a key enabler of a coming automotive industry disruption. Reinforced phenolics: Still disruptive after all these years

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