Click on the image for a gallery of high-res images of the Chevy Volt.

The Chevy Volt Concept was a true revelation at the Detroit Auto Show in January - a stunning combination of high-tech hybrid wizardry and edgy looks. GM received incredible kudos for its efforts and green car fans across the world are now eagerly awaiting more news on the first production vehicle based on GM's new E-Flex hybrid range-extending platform. But the Volt's powertrain is far from its only high-tech feature - this car's made from more than just steel.

The Volt's composition utilises 110 lb / 50 kg of thermoplastics, including entire body panels, for a saving of about 60 lb / 27.2 kg over comparably sized vehicles. Another benefit of the thermoplastic construction methods used in the Volt is that is associated recyclability has been increased as well.

Utilising a cutting-edge blend of compression-molded composites, the hood and door panels are literally super light. The core of each panel is made from Azdel Superlite low-density glass mat thermoplastic, with a matrix of Noryl PPX thermoplastic olefin made by GE Plastics which has a significantly higher Young's modulus (measure of stiffness) than thermoplastic polyolefins currently on the market. The panel core is faced by continuous glass fiber-reinforced polypropylene (HPPC), which provides a high-temperature resistant, high modulus, quality exterior finish.

In production, the panels would be developed for online painting with a Superlite core combined with a matrix and fiber-reinforced skins produced from resins reclaimed from recycled PET drink bottles.

Analysis: Interestingly enough, the biggest challenge identified in the Composites World article for the introduction of thermoplastics into mass-produced vehicle assembly lines is not price. It's time. [Seriously, if it wasn't dollars, it was going to be time right?] Current best practise for producing HPPC parts is a cycle time just under four minutes. This will have to come down to two minutes to successfully integrate on the assembly line.

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[Source: Composites World]


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