Covestro develops structures, crystals and interiors for the green car from polyurethanes and polycarbonates. China is the market with the greatest potential
To some extent more European than Asian, Shanghai is not one of the worst cities in mass traffic management , despite the fact that 26 million people live in it. Something has to do with that 50% of the road networks of the Asian giant were built in less than 15 years. After mobility has become, by itself, a megatrend on a global scale, it is no longer surprising that China is since 2015, the largest mobility market in the world, also green , above the US. China has a government plan that seeks to reduce the pollution that saddens the country’s skies.
Last year, in fact, sales of electric vehicles doubled to 350,000 units. But they are only the first steps. The Chinese government aims to sell up to seven million e-cars by the year 2025, which will account for 20% of new sales cars in the Asian giant , and between 40% and 50% in 2030. The plan is so ambitious that Beijing aims to become the leading producer of electric vehicles in the world.
If China already begins to cook an ecosystem of high-tech start-ups that self-supply its electric car industry, it has also done so with the materials that will make up a lighter, more efficient and more resistant vehicle . One of the architects: the German company Covestro from its innovation center in Shanghai itself. “The Chinese Government has had to learn from other markets to create high quality standards and polyurethane could become a solution to solve this problem,” said Covestro Commercial Operations Manager in China, Holly Lei, during the press presentation in its center of innovation.
What the old Bayer Material Science proposes is to replace steel and glass with composite materials derived from polyurethane and polycarbonate . These parts, lighter and extremely resistant, would make up the structure of the vehicle, today manufactured from steel or aluminum.
Instead of glass, the German company has developed shatterproof and highly transparent polycarbonate that could be applied in the front lights, which are now made of glass, or in the panoramic roofs of the vehicle. This material, in addition to being 50% lighter, can block ultraviolet radiation . “If you look at Tesla’s vehicle, you realize that the design itself is different,” Lei introduces. “You do not need the front and there you can integrate many features with sensors, monitoring by light … It is a milestone that completely reverses the situation.”
If everything changes, the interior design of the vehicle will also be different. In the seats it is the turn of polyurethane foams and other raw materials derived from this material are articulated as upholstery and coverings. The polyurethane and polycarbonate rigid foams that conserve the vehicle’s temperature better come into play for insulation. In fact, this point is particularly interesting for electric cars that can not use the residual heat of the engine to heat the interior .
As is evident, lightness is a crucial factor in the trends of green mobility, since it implies less vehicle consumption and, therefore, less greenhouse gas emissions. The visionary CEO of the investment firm Automobility, Bill Russo, shared his forecast of the future of the automobile: ” The car-sharing model is more efficientthan each person having a vehicle, especially in a scenario like China, with so much population. The cities will start restricting car access, as we are already seeing, and then a new mobility strategy will be installed. “
The innovation, according to Russo, will take place halfway between public transport and the possession of a vehicle , that is, in the carpooling of the private car or in car pooling , whereby the costs of a foreign vehicle are shared. He points out that the companies that play in this market want to become the sellers of the vehicle, not the service providers: “This is where the great business opportunity to grow is located”.
The smartphone has become the platform that changes all the rules of the game and Russo does not overlook the way the Internet has developed in China: as an industrial disruption . «WeChat is not like WhatsApp because I never got to pay with WhatsApp. However, most Chinese users are in WeChat and perform many daily operations with it. Maybe the equivalent would be Amazon, but even they do not have this penetration ».