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Report: Plastics and Chemistry Products Improving Vehicle Safety and Efficiency

Electric Vehicles Have ~85% More Chemistry than Fuel-Powered Vehicles

Matthew Kastner

WASHINGTON (May 15, 2024) — Today the American Chemistry Council (ACC) released a report, “Chemistry and Automobiles,” which found that use of chemistry and plastic products continues to rise in vehicles. Electric vehicles (EVs) in particular are driving increased demand for these products in the auto sector as a mid-size EV contains approximately 45% more plastic than a similarly sized fuel-powered vehicle.

The report found that compared to a decade ago, the average value of chemistry in a vehicle had increased by 31%. The amount of plastic and polymer composites is up more than 18% from a decade ago and accounts for approximately 10% of a vehicle’s weight yet 50% of its volume. This has helped drive fuel efficiency by reducing the weight of vehicles.

Plastics and the products of chemistry in vehicles do more than just improve fuel efficiency and range -- they also support vehicle safety. In addition to seatbelts and airbags, which depend on plastics and chemistry, fiber-reinforced polymer composites can absorb four times the crush energy of steel while foams and polymer composites also help provide impact protection. Additionally, advanced driver assistance systems, such as automated emergency braking, rely on plastics for the multitude of cameras and sensors that enable such safety innovations.

Heather Rose-Glowacki, Sr. Director of Industry Intelligence & Analysis | American Chemistry Council
The trend of incorporating more plastics and chemistry products into vehicles shows little sign of slowing down. Automobile manufacturers, consumers, and regulators want the same thing – more efficient, technologically advanced, and safer vehicles. Coupling those demands with a growing EV market, we anticipate even more plastics and products of chemistry in automobiles for the foreseeable future.
Ross Eisenberg, President | America's Plastic Makers®
What excites me most is we are seeing a transition to using more recycled plastics in automobiles and finding ways to capture and recycle plastics from post-use automobiles. Of all the durable goods sectors seeking to improve circularity, the automobile sector is probably the most advanced and is already incorporating recycled plastics into automobile textiles, tires and other components.

To learn more, view the full report and a fact sheet.

American Chemistry Council

The American Chemistry Council’s mission is to advocate for the people, policy, and products of chemistry that make the United States the global leader in innovation and manufacturing. To achieve this, we: Champion science-based policy solutions across all levels of government; Drive continuous performance improvement to protect employees and communities through Responsible Care®; Foster the development of sustainability practices throughout ACC member companies; and Communicate authentically with communities about challenges and solutions for a safer, healthier and more sustainable way of life. Our vision is a world made better by chemistry, where people live happier, healthier, and more prosperous lives, safely and sustainably—for generations to come.

American Chemistry Council’s Plastics Division

The American Chemistry Council’s Plastics Division represents America’s Plastic MakersSM and the half million+ scientists, engineers, technicians, and other innovators who make plastics for many essential and lifesaving products that are vital to modern life. America’s Plastic Makers continue to embrace change. We’re linking innovation with sustainability, deploying next generation technologies to make plastics lighter, stronger, more efficient and more recyclable, so we can meet our goal for 100% of U.S. plastic packaging to be reused, recycled, or recovered by 2040. We’re making sustainable change to help build a cleaner, safer, more sustainable future for generations to come. 

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