Scanty resources and rising raw-material prices - to counter this situation, carmakers are making a powerful commitment to optimising weight and consumption as well as new drive concepts. On the way to sustainable mobility, textiles are providing an important contribution - and the applications are becoming more numerous as well as more surprising.
The BMW i8, the Volkswagen Nils and Up, the Opel Ampera and RAK e, the Smart Forvision: all these brand-new production-ready vehicles and studies drew huge crowds at this year's International Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt. They all share an interesting technological basis in that - either as an alternative or in addition to diesel or petrol - they make use of different drive concepts. The key term here is electromobility.
The current state of technology only enables conventional vehicles to be replaced by purely battery-driven models under certain conditions. The power only lasts for a maximum of 150 kilometres, after which the vehicle has to be recharged for several hours at a time. Many experts believe that the fuel cell has more potential here. With the help of hydrogen, it generates the power for driving the electric motor - and is completely emission-free.
from their ecological benefits, the new drive concepts do however add a
considerable amount of additional weight. This means that weight has to be
saved in other areas - and here, textiles are the right choice. As compound
materials, such as carbon fibre, their low weight and high rigidity give them
impressive performance features. They are stronger than steel and around
one-third lighter than aluminium.
Fibre-plastic composites are already being used in numerous automotive applications today: for chassis components, vehicle roofs, bumpers, rear doors or bonnets. The combination of approx. 60 % carbon fibres with epoxy resin leads to weight optimisation, thereby reducing fuel consumption.
The proportion of textiles used in the production of a car will continue to increase. The figure currently lies at roughly 20 kg. The Textile Research Board predicts an average figure of 30 kg for the year 2015. This increase is of course releasing a vast amount of potential along the full length of the textile value-added chain.
2004, with its GINA Light study, BMW demonstrated how textile solutions can
revolutionise a car. "GINA" is an acronym for the principle of "Geometry
and Functions in 'N' Adaptations." The special thing about this study is
the outer fabric skin used, which has hardly any joins. It gives the model a
unique, "cast in one piece" look. Unlike a metal chassis, which is
segmented into almost ten sections, here there are only four sections of outer
skin stretched taut across the vehicle exterior. The structure beneath the skin
is flexible, which is why the material has to fulfil the most stringent
A date has not yet been set on when the GINA Light study will be ready for series production, but BMW is already planning its first carbon-fibre-chassis models for the year 2013.
from reducing a vehicle's weight and fuel consumption, technical textiles also
provide value-added. Moving from the chassis into the vehicle interior, the
integration of microsystem-technical components can tangibly improve in-car
comfort and acoustics. The climate control can be designed more efficiently
using spacer textiles and, to improve noise insulation, new recyclable compound
materials can be used in the form of tiles, flocked surfaces or membranes.
Textiles can also help to increase passive safety inside cars. In the medium term, for instance, safety textiles in tyres can warn of damage, or adaptive textile shock absorbers can be used. The possibilities are highly diverse and far-ranging - as with almost everything in the textile world.
In developing and emerging countries, too, individual traffic is steadily on the increase. This is why it will be crucial to considerably reduce energy consumption and emissions per vehicle and kilometre to prevent excessive damage to the environment.
In spite of new concepts and technological approaches, innovative textile applications can only go into series production in cars if economically efficient production is assured. Science and industry are therefore focusing on new joining techniques to keep production costs as low as possible. Moreover it is important to modify compound materials in such a way that they can be processed even more effectively by means of existing technologies.
These lines of approach are also being worked on by Groz-Beckert together with its partners in the Technology and Development Centre (TEZ). More information on the solutions being opened up by the company in the automotive textiles sector can be found in other articles in this Online Newsletter.