Everyone wants a car that can combine performance and efficiency, from the regulators to consumers. Innovation in materials will be key going forward.
Transport: A priority sector in the Commission’s climate & energy plans
The automotive industry undeniably is one of the most challenged industries of our century but one that holds the most opportunities for progress. As one of the sectors contributing most to European and worldwide CO2 emissions, road transportation has become critical to the discussions on climate change and environmental sustainability. In fact, at European level, authorities have estimated that road transport, and more specifically light-duty vehicles – vans and cars – currently represent about 15% of EU’s total CO2 emissions.
As a result of its significant environmental impact, the automotive industry has faced increasing regulatory challenges. Yet, the same challenges have also led the sector to create new opportunities. For instance, innovation in materials has been – and will keep being – crucial to the sector’s future. New materials used for the production of vehicles play a critical role in tackling climate change as they can contribute to reducing fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
The environmental and economic significance of the automotive and overall transport sector has notably led the European Commission to identify it as a key area in the recently published Energy Union Package. Indeed, in addition to its environmental aspect, transports’ reliance on imported energy has led the European Union to further encourage the use of new sources of energy and the development of more energy efficient vehicles to increase the region’s independence from external providers.
Officially introduced on 25 February 2015, the European Commission‘s Energy Union Package gives an overview of the climate and energy objectives and policy initiatives the EU will undertake within the next 5 years. It notably furthers the Commission’s 2050 Transport Strategy which asserted the EU’s objective to cut transport emissions by 60% by 2050. The same strategy also emphasized the need to develop more energy efficient modes of transportation, to extend intermodal networks, and to improve infrastructures.
From an environmental perspective, the new Commission therefore plans to tighten CO2 emissions and energy efficiency standards, in particular in the case of passenger cars and vans. Of note, a review of the post-2020 regulation setting emission performance standards for road vehicles will be carried out in 2016-2017. On the shorter-term, the regulatory initiative set up in the Energy Union should also help the EU meeting its earlier established 2020 targets on reducing CO2 emissions from road transportation.
Polyurethane: when innovation meets sustainability
Going forward the automotive industry has a critical role to play in the fight against climate change. And improving vehicle materials and design will be key to reducing vehicles’ environmental impact. Energy savings essentially depend on practical innovations. For example, from seats to structural bonding, door panels and panoramic glasses, polyurethane enables cars to gain in lightness and durability while reducing their CO2 impact.
For car geeks out there, polyurethane foam in seats and headliners help decreasing their density. Similarly, composite door panels are made thinner and lighter thanks to fibre mats made from polyurethanes. In addition, polyurethanes in car seals and adhesives also improve vehicles’ dynamic and strength. All in all, that’s beneficial both for the environment and for your wallet as you’ll make more fuel savings.
Meeting EU energy and climate change objectives takes more than commitments. It takes creativity! Thanks to polyurethane, enhancing vehicles’ energy efficiency and environmental sustainability goes hand in hand with modern design and economic savings for the consumer.