At the K 2016 plastics trade fair, Covestro will be unveiling an entirely new concept for designing electric motor vehicles. It was developed in close collaboration with design students and partners in the auto industry, and is based on pioneering plastics technologies. The visionary concept is to be presented in the form of a contemporary electric car incorporating current trends in exterior design, including a seamless front end, innovative holographic lighting, polycarbonate wrap-around glazing and the use of sustainable coating and adhesive systems.
“Our concept helps to expand electromobility, which is destined to make a major contribution to climate protection,” said Dr. Markus Steilemann, a member of the Covestro Board of Management and responsible for innovation. “These developments are pushing boundaries, offering new solutions for attractively designing comfortable, functional and energy-efficient cars. They are our way of helping customers raise the bar on styling, functional integration, profitability and sustainability.”
Redefining automotive lighting
Automotive lighting is entering a totally new dimension defined by luminous surfaces instead of headlights and lamps: Light itself, not the lamp assembly, is now the styling element. “Automotive designers today have access to remarkable possibilities for styling the front and rear ends, including homogeneously integrating sensors, antennas, light and signal elements,” explained project manager Jochen Hardt. “While consumers want a sophisticated and trendy look, car makers want unique features and an unmistakable brand design.”
Holography will likely prove to be a top technology in future automotive lighting. Together with automotive supplier HELLA, Covestro has developed an innovative solution based on holographic films, with which various light functions can be integrated into the body parts. The solution requires very little space and opens up entirely new possibilities for using light as a design element.
Another trend is seamless, homogeneous surfaces, which are about more than just aesthetics: The less drag a vehicle creates, the less energy it consumes or, in the case of electric cars, the greater their range. To help reduce drag, Covestro equipped its concept car with additional components to improve aerodynamics.
Wrap-around glazing made of transparent polycarbonate provides for better all-around visibility. Wrap-around glazing rewards passengers with a panorama view, and enhances pedestrian safety because it almost entirely eliminates blind spots.
New developments in raw materials for coatings and adhesives are another part of the design concept. The coating hardener is made with biomass: 70 percent of its carbon content is of plant origin. Coatings formulated with this raw material achieve the same high-level properties as conventional coatings, even surpassing them in some cases. On top of that, they contribute to climate protection.
Another hardener enables plastic automotive add-on parts to be coated at low temperatures. In the medium term, this technology will offer the opportunity of coating plastic, composite and metal parts together for the first time. For more sophisticated demands, Covestro also has developed raw materials for transparent adhesives.
Material meets design
Covestro worked closely with various partners on its new automotive concept. For instance, the company invited students from the distinguished Umeå Institute of Design in Sweden and the Northern Works design agency in Finland, to Leverkusen. The purpose of the project was to shift existing boundaries between aesthetics and materials and to develop new ideas for design and functionality that fulfill the dreams of future drivers. The focus was on material solutions based on polycarbonate.
As many as 50 years ago, Covestro, then operating under its former name Bayer, introduced the first car with a plastic body at the plastics trade show: the K 67. Since then, the company has been repeatedly pushing boundaries with innovative and bold material solutions. Additional milestones include the introduction of headlamps and automotive glazing made of polycarbonate, raw materials for waterborne fillers and base coats, as well as low-solvent polyurethane clear coats.
With 2015 sales of EUR 12.1 billion, Covestro is among the world’s largest polymer companies. Business activities are focused on the manufacture of high-tech polymer materials and the development of innovative solutions for products used in many areas of daily life. The main segments served are the automotive, electrical and electronics, construction and the sports and leisure industries. Covestro, formerly Bayer MaterialScience, has 30 production sites around the globe and employs approximately 15,700 people (full-time equivalents) as of the end of 2016.
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