One largely ignored feature of the upcoming 2014 Fiat 500L is that it uses polycarbonate glazing–plastic–instead of glass for some of its windows. But rather than a fluke, expect this kind of “glass” to become commonplace over the next few years. Not only will it cut window weight in half, it also reduces the number of parts taken to join the window to the vehicle. The extra fifty pounds from using plastic instead of standard glass on a car’s windows is something that automakers don’t want to pass up.
“Every ounce counts,” said Dick Schultz, managing director at Ducker Worldwide’s Automotive Material Practice. It is anticipated that the plastic replacements will no doubt go mainstream. Although the changeover won’t happen overnight, automakers are making great strides to implement it in upcoming vehicles.
Ford Motor Co. is doing its own 10,000-hour environmental durability testing on the new window, and if everything goes well, the polycarbonate windows will be featured in the new Transit Connect out later this year.
After being used to protect headlights for years, V. Umamaheswaran–global marketing director for the automotive unit of SABIC’s Innovative Plastics business–believes the technology to be ready for larger-scale production. “It’s not just weight savings, it’s hugely the styling implications and aerodynamics.”
Although the polycarbonate is great for fixed windows, like those in the rear of vehicles, it will not appear in door widows and windshields for a while, due to federal safety regulations. However, the plastic may very well be featured in sunroofs.
There is a downside to using the polycarbonate in replace of the glass. Because it is very flexible, emergency first responders may potentially have difficulties removing accident victims from the vehicle. Along with the safety issues, the cost is almost twice as much as regular glass as it has to have special ultraviolet protection to prevent cloudiness and yellowing over time.
Source: Detroit News