*From the September 2011 issue of Plastics Engineering
New and enhanced plastics are vital to underhood performance
By Pat Toensmeier
Underhood parts are breaking ground in dynamic and demanding applications, creating sizeable opportunities in coming years for engineering thermoplastics and thermosets.
Factors driving developments include greater efforts by auto OEMs to reduce vehicle weight through metal replacement and part consolidation, the need to lower component cost, and rising standards for fuel consumption, heat resistance, durability and dimensional stability. In some cases the ability of plastics to provide sustainability—i.e., green design—will be a factor.
Applications that are emerging for underhood (which in this report includes powertrain and chassis components) read like a checklist of engineered and structural parts. Notable are oil pans, fan shrouds and cooling systems; engine, valve and timing-chain covers; fully integrated oil modules; thermostat housings; electric throttle bodies; transmission seals, thrust washers and bearing cages; engine mounts and transmission cross beams. For hybrid-electric and electric vehicles, battery pack and recharging components and high-voltage connectors are on the list.