11 Jun, 2020 By Johny 2 Comments
The Composite material industry status report and future outlook for year 2020–Auto Market
Globally, light vehicles (with a total rated weight of less than 8,500 pounds) consume approximately 5 billion pounds of composite materials annually. Thermoplastic matrix composites account for the majority. Composite materials and other lightweight materials have achieved strong growth in recent years, but the coming year has brought some disadvantages for composite materials for automotive applications. The main growth inhibitor will be the relatively flat global light vehicle market, while the United States relaxes fuel economy standards. However, as OEMs continue to reduce the weight of vehicles on global vehicle platforms, there will be growth opportunities for composites.
Automotive material suppliers will need to gain market share to achieve growth in 2020, because the year-on-year growth in production is expected to be very small. Europe is expected to remain stable and the North American Free Trade Area will decline slightly. China is expected to experience low single-digit growth, which is very limited compared to the staggering annual growth rate recently observed. Since the global production outlook is only expected to grow by 2-3% annually by 2025, composite material suppliers will need to win market share from existing materials to find meaningful growth.
In addition to the overall market downturn, the relaxation of average fuel economy standards for US companies will affect the growth of automotive composites. Reducing weight has become part of the OEM strategy to meet the ever-increasing fuel economy and carbon dioxide emission regulations. These regulations are the main driving force behind the increasing use of lightweight materials in automobiles over the past decade.
The lowering of fuel economy standards in the United States is only a setback for the global application of lightweight materials in automobiles in the United States. Tighter CO2 emissions regulations outside the United States will continue to drive the need to reduce vehicle weight on global vehicle platforms. In addition, reducing weight is critical to expanding the range of battery electric vehicles. In this small and growing market, the pursuit of lightweight materials will continue. Despite the “pause” of US fuel economy regulations, interest in composite materials to reduce vehicle weight still exists.
To take advantage of this interest, composite parts suppliers will have to improve and increase the cost performance of composite products and other products. In the past ten years, high-strength steel and aluminum have been the biggest beneficiaries of North America’s weight reduction in OEMs, and their applications have increased to 6% and 3% of the quality of automobiles, respectively. From the perspective of cost, manufacturability and strength-to-weight ratio, this share comes mainly from low carbon steel, which is the basic automotive grade steel.
Normalizing the data and taking into account the difference in specific gravity indicates that during this period, the volume of high-strength steel and aluminum exceeds 2 times and 3 times that of plastic and composite resin, respectively. Obviously, if composite materials are to become the first choice for mainstream auto weight loss, there is more work to be done.
The near future will bring challenges and opportunities to composite materials for automotive applications. Disadvantages include relatively flat global production prospects and the decline in North American lightweight materials regulatory regulations, which will become an obstacle to growth. The demand for lightweight automotive materials will continue to grow. Compared with aluminum and other alternatives, if composite material suppliers can demonstrate the cost performance of composite materials, they will definitely win new business opportunities in a difficult environment.