Demand for lightweight plastics in electric vehicles to hit $73 million by 2017

You need lightweight materials to make a good electric vehicle. Despite remarkable development in recent years, the batteries remain heavy, and this leads to an unhelpful spiral: the heavier the vehicle gets the more batteries it needs to make it move, adding more unwanted mass. So it’s best to start with something fairly light.

According to a report from market research firm Frost & Sullivan, this demand for lightweight materials is set to provide the plastics industry with a $73 million (£47 million) opportunity by 2017. This will represent considerable growth – in 2010 the market for plastics for electric vehicles was worth just $500,000 – driven by huge growth in the market for electric vehicles: an average of 80% each year until at least 2017.

The report suggests that manufacturers might switch from metal to plastic for many components. Gears and motors are likely to remain metal because of the physical properties needed. But energy recovery devices, cooling pipes, pumps, fans, casings and other non-moving parts – these could become plastic and thereby reduce the overall weight without loss of performance. It adds that legislation that requires automotive manufacturers to use recyclable materials could hamper widespread adoption of plastics.