Nonwovens are playing an increasingly important role in automotive components as the evolution of electric and hybrid vehicles (EVs) create an imperative for transportation textiles that are lighter, quieter, stronger, cleaner and easier to recycle. Often unseen, nonwovens are found in backings for automotive body cloth, headliners and tufted carpets; in trunk liners and speaker covers; and in all manner of filter systems, just to name a few of their uses.
Nonwovens make EVs lighter With charging stations often hard to find in the U.S., enabling EVs to travel longer distances per charge is a must. Replacing injection-molded plastics with needle-punch and nonwoven composites can reduce the weight of standard automotive components by as much as 50 percent.
Milliken & Co.’s Textile Division is moving to nonwovens for wheel well liners and airfoils to promote fuel efficiency and recyclability, according to Jeff Stafford, vice president nonwovens. “Molded fibe-reinforced plastics are not easily recyclable,” he adds.
“For fuel efficiency, most vehicles on the roads today have aeroshields,” says Gale Shipley, automotive sales manager for Dalco Nonwovens LLC. “These parts reduce drag under the car, thus increasing gas mileage by 3–5 miles-per-gallon.”
Balancing cost and comfort The cost of batteries and electronics is a barrier to the adoption of EVs. Using nonwovens for lithium battery casings, trunk liners, and as replacements for tufted carpets and seating foam reduces secondary costs as well as weight.
Needle-punch wovens from Filc d.o.o., Freudenberg Performance Materials’ recent acquisition, are used in seating as a barrier between the metal and a thinner layer of foam, providing OEMs with the same level of comfort found in a standard 4” foam layer. “You don’t want to have your posterior sitting on metal,” says Brett Woodson, business segment manager, automotive, for Freudenberg.