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Lightweighting with Automotive Structural Adhesives

Are you looking to build greener, cheaper and more efficient cars or trucks? In this article we explore how automotive adhesives pave the way for lightweighting and reducing vehicle weight. 

Table of Contents

lightweight vehicles being manufactured

What Is Lightweighting?

One of the biggest challenges in the automotive industry is the reducing of vehicle weight; otherwise known as lightweighting. There are many reasons why automotive manufacturers take on this challenge, ranging from economics and government legislation to customer satisfaction and vehicle performance.

The Advantages of Lightweighting

Reduced CO2 Emissions

Lighter vehicles require less fuel to run, resulting in lower carbon dioxide emissions. This is important as by 2021, new vehicles in Europe are required to emit no more than 95 g/km of CO2. This is 40% lower than the maximum emission allowed in 2007, and many manufacturers are struggling to reach it. As a result, the automotive manufacturers that are able to maintain their CO2 emissions below the requirement (through methods such as lightweighting) will be the thriving manufacturers in Europe.

Reduced Fuel Consumption / Increased Fuel Efficiency

The fuel consumption of a car is mainly determined by the efficiency of its engine system and the car’s weight. Therefore, by reducing the weight of the car, the fuel efficiency can be increased, leading to a reduced fuel consumption. A general rule of thumb is that a 10% reduction in vehicle weight leads to a 6% to 7% increase in fuel efficiency. This improves the purchase appeal of the vehicle as consumers look to purchase more efficient cars that will save them money in the long term.

Reduced Manufacturing Costs

Reducing the vehicle weight is usually achieved by using fewer (but smarter) resources in the manufacturing of the vehicle. Fewer resources lead to simpler manufacturing processes; this saves costs from both the resources and the processes. Lightweighting can therefore lead to increased profits for automotive manufacturers.

Increased Car Performance

The same engine can drive one car faster than another if the first car weighs less than the second. Additionally, lighter cars benefit from better handling, braking and acceleration. Therefore, competitive drivers look for lighter cars to gain a performance advantage over other cars.

How To Reduce Vehicle Weight

There are various ways to reduce vehicle weight effectively, including:

  • Using lightweight materials such as aluminium, magnesium and carbon-fiber composites instead of steel in the vehicle body structure. Aluminium and steel are equal in strength, but aluminium is lighter.
  • Using adhesives instead of traditional (and heavy) fastening methods such as welds, joints and rivets.
  • Removing unnecessary parts of the vehicle.

Automotive Adhesives for Lightweighting

Non-traditional materials in vehicle manufacturing, such as magnesium, aluminium and composites, require non-traditional bonding techniques. Automotive adhesives are able to provide strong bonding between sensitive components and composites; where welding would damage them. To learn more about the benefits of structural adhesives over traditional fastening methods, see our article “What Are Structural Adhesives?“.

Here are a list of adhesives that are designed for the purpose of automotive lightweighting:

BETAMATE 2810 is a semi-structural and elastic polyurethane adhesive commonly used in lightweighting applications. It enables the bonding of sensitive and thin elements in modern component assemblies, which are used as lightweight replacements of older and heavier components. It has been used in the bonding of vehicle SMC side panels to an aluminium side-frame.

BETAFORCE 9050 is a two-component, polyurethane adhesive ideal for use in automotive applications. It offers primerless adhesion to various composites and coated metal surfaces. It has applications in lightweight closures and structural components, such as liftgates, seating, B-pillar and tunnels. 

Merbenit E20 is a lightweight SMP sealant designed for use in the transportation industry. It has applications in vehicle body sealing and large area bonding in vehicle interiors.

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