Sustainable Plastics Help EV Set New Indoor Speed Record

Electric vehicle makers are in a race to increase electric vehicle efficiency by reducing EV weight as much as possible. Heavier electric vehicles require more power to propel their weight, cutting down EV battery range and increasing the need for either frequent charging or more energy-dense batteries.

Some automakers are working to achieve increased energy efficiency in electric cars by reducing vehicle weight. Engineers from Saudi Arabia-based petrochemical company SABIC have now developed a lightweight sustainable plastic that was instrumental in setting a new world record for indoor car racing.

A sports car equipped with sustainable plastics reached 218.7 kilometers per hour (135 miles per hour) in an indoor circuit, smashing the previous record for the fastest vehicle indoors and showcasing the potential efficiency benefits of using sustainable plastics in electric cars. The record-breaking car was the result of a partnership between Formula E and SABIC, a key player in the GENBETA live development program, which looks to accelerate the development of novel technologies and materials for electric vehicles for both racing tracks and the road.

The sustainable plastic was deployed in the vehicle’s wheel fins, which SABIC says reduced drag and improved airflow, and used to create the thermoplastic wind deflector. Championship drivers Lucas di Grass and Jake Hughes pushed the new generational car to its limit with Hughes achieving the record-breaking speed of 218.71 KPH.

Sustainable plastics have the potential to alleviate issues such as range anxiety that have hindered electric vehicle adoption in the United States and other markets. Furthermore, they could aid in the electric vehicle industry’s quest to become more sustainable.

The EV sector still has a long way to go in terms of sustainability. Mining for EV battery metals such as cobalt has significant environmental and humanitarian considerations, and for the most part, electric vehicles are mostly powered using energy from dirty sources such as coal.

The American Chemistry Society estimates that the amount of plastics in the average vehicle has risen by 12% from 2012 to 411 pounds in 2021. Although these plastics make up under 10% of a car’s weight, they account for around 50% of the volume. Reducing the total weight of these vehicle plastics has reduced carbon emissions from the transport sector, cut down costs for drivers, and improved fuel efficiency.

According to ACS, electric vehicle manufacturers are incorporating more plastics into their vehicle design to compensate for the battery packs’ immense weight. Some high-performance plastics provide more utility by better-absorbing crush energy and granting passengers more protection in case of accidents.

Given that the EV industry is relatively new and is rapidly evolving, we can expect a lot more innovations from manufacturers such as Rivian Automotive Inc. (NASDAQ: RIVN) that are aimed at making these vehicles less costly and more reliable.

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