While last year saw the cancellation of events ranging from anniversary celebrations to major trade shows, it looks as if this year, as countries starting reopening and restrictions are relaxed, might be different. One of the first industry in-person events planned in Europe is the VDI PIAE 2021 international trade congress in Mannheim on September 8 and 9; although, as the organisers said, there will be a digital programme as well, to ensure that those unable to attend can also participate.
At a virtual media event 24 June held in advance of the congress, the main theme was the interior of the cars of the future and the tensions arising between the factors design, functionality and sustainability. Key issues playing a role, according to the various speakers, are the need for better quality and a consistent supply of recycled materials, intelligent tools and technologies that make it possible to produce the smart surfaces that consumers will be looking for in the new cars of the future and a new ‘design language’ that is aligned with the new mobility developments. One of the speakers at the event, Jörg Friedrich, the managing director at Car Men GmbH emphasised the emerging design potential of the Chinese industry, which, he said, is having an increasingly stronger impact on car interior design worldwide - “ a trend that was clearly evident at the Shanghai / Beijing Auto Shows.”
One important need is for materials with a lower carbon footprint. The automotive industry, too, must do its share to meet the European Union's stricter climate targets, preserve natural resources and increase the lifespan of vehicles. Jochen Hardt, Marketing Mobility Covestro, said that Covestro was working to fulfil these needs with new sustainable material solutions that the company will be showcasing in Mannheim in September.
"Our aim is to introduce the world's first climate-neutral polycarbonate plastics this year," he announced. "This is an important step in achieving our vision of becoming fully circular.”
Covestro has developed climate neutral - “from cradle to factory gate” - polycarbonates derived from raw materials sourced from mass-balanced biowaste and residues, and produced using renewable energy.
The company already offers ISCC Plus-certified polycarbonates, which are attributed to renewable raw materials using the mass balance approach and enable a considerable reduction in the carbon footprint.
The latest products, for which renewable energy is used for their production, take this a step further. The products, he underlined, have the same high quality and performance as fossil-based polycarbonates and are a drop-in replacement with no adjustments to existing processes or workflows required.
Covestro is also working on the use of plastic recyclates, which the company said, are an important building block in significantly reducing a car's carbon footprint from raw material and component production through the use phase to recycling.
To that end, the company is supporting the development of chemical recycling technologies through its role as a member in associations and participation in the Circularise Plastics project group, which aims to establish a new standard for the traceability of plastics back to the raw material with the help of sophisticated blockchain technology.