By Rhoda Miel, Plastics News Staff
Paris -- New uses for plastics are hitting the road in Europe, from high-end sports cars to the family van. At the press preview for the Paris Motor Show -- officially the Mondial de l'Automobile -- Daimler AG rolled out its all-electric Mercedes SLS AMG Coupé Electric Drive, which boasts extensive use of carbon fibre to help it offer up speeds of up to 155 mph, and a 155-mile range on its lithium-ion batteries.
The Mercedes builds on the Stuttgart, Germany-based automaker's E-Cell design for electric vehicles, which creates a carbon-fibre "spine" that runs along the floor of the car and holds the battery pack. The carbon fibre is both light and strong enough to protect the batteries during a crash.
Daimler first showed the carbon-fibre-spine concepts in 2011, saying the composite is 50 percent lighter than a comparable steel package and 30 percent lighter than aluminium.
The sports car also boasts carbon fibre throughout its body. A front splitter is designed to create a downforce on the front axle to improve performance. The front mirrors and the engine cover are also produced with carbon fibre.
Production has already begun, meanwhile, on a new car for the European market. Rather than power and speed, Ford Motor Co. boasts convenience and an easier way to get the kids in the car with its B-Max.
Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford created the small minivan without a traditional B-pillar - the vertical structural support between the first and second row of seats.
Removing the pillar and replacing the traditional rear door with a sliding door allows van users to get into the rear seats more easily. That makes it easier to get children into car seats or large packages in and out of the vehicle. But removing the B-pillar also eliminated the traditional location for front-row seat belts.
Seat supplier Johnson Controls Inc. had to design a front seat that integrated the seat-belt mechanism and developed all-new production at new sites in Romania, near Ford's assembly plant in Craiova. JCI, with automotive operations based in Plymouth, Michigan, and European offices in Burscheid, Germany, hired 185 people for the seat-assembly plant in Craiova. It also bought Romania's Spumotim SA in late 2011, adding its urethane foam facility in Timisoara to produce seat pads for the B-Max seats.
A full version of this story appears on our sister publication, Plastics News