Road vehicle of the future: a challenge for automotive suppliers

From June Issue of Compositi Magazine

Gianpiero Mastinu – Ground Vehicle Engineering Politecnico di Milano, Segretario Generale, Cluster Lombardo della Mobilità
Piersandro Trevisan – Development Advisor, Cluster Lombardo della Mobilità

The automotive industry plays a fundamental role in the use and development of materials, both conventional and innovative. Lightweight vehicles improve both emissions and performance. This article presents a number of challenges for Automotive Suppliers related to new materials and future road vehicles. In the future, the possibilities of using composite materials will be considerable, both for:

  • automated and connected vehicles
  • vehicles with low or zero emissions
  • new vehicles (quadricycles) for car sharing
Automated and connected vehicle

There are six levels of automation, defined by SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers). On the market, we have vehicles of the first three levels, from Level 0 to Level 2. Level 3 is particularly critical because it requires the transfer of responsibility from the driver to the vehicle manufacturer. Only Level 5 is relating properly to autonomous vehicles (maximum degree of automation).

During automated driving, the driving responsibility no longer pertains to the driver. The recent UNECE Regulation 157 defines the possibility of homologating Level 3 vehicles. For Level 4 and Level 5, we are at very low levels of technological development (TRL / Technology Readiness Level equal to 4 or 5), no homologation regulation is available.

What role do composites play or will play?

Very relevant, but very distant in time. Autonomous vehicles operating in homogeneous autonomous vehicle traffic are expected to circulate in the most advanced countries no earlier than 2050. These vehicles will not have accidents. As a result, crash resistance will no longer be a problem and chassis and body will be able to abandon (perhaps) metals.

Low or zero-emission vehicles New energy vehicles / NEVs are and will be lightweight. In fact, the emissions depend on the resistance to motion, which is directly dependent on the mass of the vehicle. Given the mass of the battery, electric vehicles must have lightweight measures in all the remaining components. The composites can be used for battery boxes (including structural parts).

Many of the approximately 30,000 parts that make up a modern vehicle are candidates for composite construction. But pay attention to the Life Cycle Assessment!



The ownership of cars that are used no more than one hour a day – and are then stationary, often occupying public areas – is nonsense. The shift of ownership
paradigm will concern cities, in the first instance. Probably the extensive introduction of electric quadricycles running exclusively within cities will be a reality in about five years. Light quadricycles and limited crash-related features may be constructed from composite material.






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