Plastics and polymer composite materials are critical to creating the air bags, windshields, sunroofs, and energy absorbing material innovations that reduce vehicle fatalities. Plastic composite structures help lightweight vehicles while preserving safety features. Examples include life-saving innovations in plastic front-end modules, modular seats, and energy-absorbing bumpers.
A 2019 study by George Mason University’s Center for Collision Safety and Analysis, which works closely with National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), shows polymer composites save lives and vehicle weight while exceeding new NHTSA frontal oblique crash intrusion requirements.
Fiber-reinforced polymer composites can absorb four times the crush energy of steel, which is why the auto racing industry uses them for driver’s safety and to reduce crash fatalities to near zero. For example, polymer composites are often used to connect a vehicle’s roof to its body, and these innovative materials provide the major source of resistance to intrusion during a collision. A NHTSA study showed that specific use of carbon fiber thermoplastics provided a 60% weight savings and exceeded side-impact crash requirements over other materials.