WASHINGTON D.C. (October 28, 2015) — According to the U.S. Department of Energy, automobile components made with advanced composite materials could reduce the weight of passenger cars by half and improve fuel efficiency by nearly 35 percent. That’s one of the primary reasons that automakers are ramping up use of composite auto parts made with carbon fiber-reinforced plastics (CFRP) in their vehicles.

The growing trend toward “lightweighting” vehicles through use of lighter, advanced materials such as CFRP is driven in large part by the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (“CAFE”) fuel efficiency standards mandating 54.5 miles per gallon for auto fleets by 2025. In addition, buyers of new vehicles say fuel economy remains the most influential factor in determining which vehicle they select, according to a survey by J.D. Power.

CFRP are both lightweight and especially strong, up to 10 times stronger than steel, 50 percent lighter than steel, and 30 percent lighter than aluminum. One automaker says: “All factors of a vehicle’s capabilities—acceleration, handling, braking, safety, efficiency—can improve through the use of advanced, lighter materials.”

“The combination of carbon fiber and lightweight plastics creates an advanced composite matrix, something much tougher than either material could be on its own,” said Steve Russell, vice president of plastics for the American Chemistry Council, which sponsors the Plastics Make it Possible® initiative. “These advanced materials will help automakers reach their fuel efficiency goals, reduce emissions, and save consumers money at the pump.”

In addition to improved fuel efficiency, CFRP components can contribute to safety since they can absorb up to 12 times more crash energy than steel. One automaker says CFRP are “especially light and high-strength” and provide “outstanding protection for vehicle passengers in the event of an emergency.”

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Plastics Make it Possible® highlights the many ways plastics inspire innovations that improve our lives, solve big problems and help us design a safer, more promising future. This program is sponsored by America’s Plastics MakersTM through the plastics industries of the American Chemistry Council.

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The American Chemistry Council (ACC) represents the leading companies engaged in the business of chemistry. ACC members apply the science of chemistry to make innovative products and services that make people’s lives better, healthier and safer. ACC is committed to improved environmental, health and safety performance through Responsible Care®, common sense advocacy designed to address major public policy issues, and health and environmental research and product testing. The business of chemistry is an $801 billion enterprise and a key element of the nation’s economy. It is the nation’s largest exporter, accounting for fourteen percent of all U.S. exports. Chemistry companies are among the largest investors in research and development. Safety and security have always been primary concerns of ACC members, and they have intensified their efforts, working closely with government agencies to improve security and to defend against any threat to the nation’s critical infrastructure.