American Chemistry MattersA Blog of the American Chemistry Council

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$142 billion light vehicle industry depends on chemistry

The new federal fuel efficiency standards for cars and light-duty trucks — 54.5 miles per gallon (MPG) by 2025 — calls attention to an important reality: that vehicle efficiency is a crucial component of a comprehensive U.S. energy strategy.

Chemistry Behind Fuel Efficiency

In August, ACC released its “Chemistry and Light Vehicles” report, which highlighted chemistry’s contributions to greater fuel efficiency in vehicles. The products of chemistry — including plastic resins and composites used in light-weighting, fuel additives and synthetic rubber — are instrumental to helping consumers save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

For example, the average fuel efficiency of model 2011 vehicles was 22.8 MPG, according to the EPA. Without chemistry, the ACC report found, fuel efficiency would be as low as 16.2 MPG.

According to Steve Russell, vice president of plastics for the American Chemistry Council:

[quote]Auto experts have pointed out that plastics continue to drive consumer value, particularly through increased fuel efficiency. Over the past decades, plastics have played an essential role in key innovations in performance, safety, and design. Plastics now make up 50 percent of the volume of new cars, but only 10 percent of the weight.[/quote]

From plastics to other light-weighting technologies, the chemistry industry is driving innovation when it comes to vehicle efficiency.

Window to the Future

BASF, an ACC member company, recently collaborated with automotive company Daimler to create the Smart Forvision concept vehicle, using various products of chemistry to dramatically improve the car’s efficiency.

From a light-transmitting roof with solar cells, to infrared-reflective film applied to the windows to protect the car from heating up in the summer, to all-plastic wheel rims suitable for series production, the Smart Forvision revolutionizes vehicle efficiency – largely through plastics and other chemistry products. And it just might be the wave of the future.

As our country places greater emphasis on saving energy by increasing the fuel efficiency of vehicles, it becomes increasingly clear that it would be all but impossible without chemistry.

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