New thermoplastic composite leads us to the vehicle of the future in 7 steps

It is 60% lighter than aluminum and has similar mechanical properties. It is non-flammable and has good electromagnetic shielding. It offers excellent production and assembly times at a very competitive price. And it is also mechanically recyclable. Do you think this is a myth? Not at all. It is the new thermoplastic composite that we have been working on developing and that opens the door to the automotive of the future.


One of the most interesting collective research in which we have participated recently has been Lightcar, a project that we have led with the Technological Institute of Plastics (AIMPLAS) and the engineering companies ITERA and SINFINY, who have been in charge of carrying out the simulations and analysis of both the demonstrator and the process. This task had an ambitious goal: to develop a fiber-reinforced thermoplastic composite material that could be applied in one of the most demanding parts of the new automotive industry: the battery of the electric vehicle.

The research started in 2021 and was completed in the last quarter of last 2023. Now we have the conclusions. And with them, a smile, because the objectives we had set ourselves have been far exceeded. Despite the fact that they were a real Shoot for the moon and that, in the middle of its development, we doubted the results we would be able to obtain.

But the reality is that we have found the way to offer a lightweight product that meets very high demands. A thermoplastic composite that overcomes seven extraordinary challenges.

7 challenges and 7 excellent results

The goals we set ourselves at the beginning of the project were ambitious. That's why today we know we are on the right track. These are the results:

  1. More than 60% weight reduction compared to aluminum. Our goal was to reduce the weight of the aluminum part by at least 40% and the effort has more than paid off, as we have achieved parts that are 63% lighter when compared to Al 7075 and 61% lighter when compared to Al 6068.
  2. Mechanical properties similar to aluminum. The structural and impact resistance requirements of a battery are important. And the result has been excellent: we have achieved the same impact resistance as using aluminum according to the CAE finite element analysis.  Moreover, compared to thermosetting composites, their properties are similar (±10%).
  3. Non-flammable material. For this characteristic, which is essential in a material that is intended to be part of a battery, we set ourselves a very restrictive target, as we sought a V0 classification on the UV94 scale for a thickness of 1.6 mm. We have also achieved this objective.
  4. High-quality electromagnetic shielding. The electromechanical properties of aluminum are difficult to achieve in plastic, yet we set out to achieve, working with carbon nanotubes, 40 decibels, a figure that is considered acceptable in automotive applications. The proposed target was not achieved during the development of the project. However, the work has continued afterwards by AIMPLAS and the collaboration of the University of Valencia. Some studies have been carried out and it has been proved that very good shielding values can be obtained by increasing the nanotube load.  In addition, high quality shielding is ensured because, compared to the metal that reflects the waves, the carbon tubes absorb them, offering excellent performance.
  5. Good production and assembly times. In this section we had a clear objective: that the material could improve operation times by at least 20% compared to thermosetting material, which usually requires long curing times piece by piece. The comparisons we have developed are virtual and indicate that we far exceeded the objectives: production will be very close to the injection times of thermoplastic materials and will offer great automation possibilities.
  6. Price reduction. Although the price of a part does not depend only on its materials, our starting point is important: by working with PP as a polymeric base, the result has a much lower raw material cost than aluminum (in similar solutions on a commercial scale).
  7. One hundred percent mechanically recyclable. And this is one of the essential reasons why we have been targeting thermoplastic composite over thermosetting from the very beginning: to advance together in sustainability and protection of the planet.

Providing the market with immediate, high-quality solutions

With these results, the satisfaction of our research team is logical.  "This challenge was really important because we were faced with materials under development and solutions that we had never tried before," says José Pérez, project coordinator and part of our R&D department. But the company's know-how, its learning capacity and its experience in bringing the solutions devised in the laboratory to reality have been essential in achieving the excellent results of the research.

For us," Pérez continues, "the advantage of this project is that we can bring immediate and quality solutions to the market. Because we have been working on one of the most complex parts of the electric vehicle, which is the battery, but there are many other components that do not present so many different requirements, which are manufactured in metal and which, with this research, we have shown that they can be replaced by plastics."

Which parts? And at what point in time? The automotive market is too hectic to make any forecasts. But what we know today is that this is the way to the future.

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