WASHINGTON, DC (March 6, 2023) — Today the American Chemistry Council (ACC) released a report “Chemistry and Automobiles” highlighting the role of plastics and chemistry in automobiles.
The report found that on average from 2012 to 2021, the amount of plastics in automobiles increased by 16%, to 411 pounds. Calculations show those 411 pounds make up less than 10% of an average vehicle’s weight yet approximately 50% of its volume, significantly improving fuel efficiency, and in turn reducing costs for drivers and carbon emissions from transportation.
As electric vehicles (EVs) become more popular, plastics are more important than ever to the auto industry. Batteries in EVs are much heavier than internal combustion engines, driving automakers to incorporate more plastic into more components of vehicles, like the chassis and battery casings to offset that additional battery weight. Furthermore, certain high-performance plastics can absorb four times the crush energy of steel, greatly improving safety for passengers in collisions.
This report demonstrates that the auto industry is choosing to use more plastic in vehicles and those choices are benefiting car owners, passengers’ safety and our efforts to advance lower carbon solutions. I anticipate this trend will continue to grow as EVs increase in market share.
“This report demonstrates that the auto industry is choosing to use more plastic in vehicles and those choices are benefiting car owners, passengers’ safety and our efforts to advance lower carbon solutions,” said Heather Rose-Glowacki, senior director of industry intelligence & analysis at ACC, and lead author of the report. “I anticipate this trend will continue to grow as EVs increase in market share.”
More EVs means more EV chargers, which also require plastics to manufacture and function.
“Plastics in automobiles are the ultimate example of plastics innovation rooted in sustainability. These aren’t your ordinary plastics; they must withstand high temperatures from batteries, daily exposure to UV light, and the wear and tear of a busy family,” said Joshua Baca, vice president of plastics at ACC, and dad to a busy family. “What gets me really excited is how we are seeing automakers partner with our industry to not just incorporate plastics into vehicles, but to improve the recycling of those plastics at the end of a vehicle’s life.”