Reducing CO2 emissions in cars: The pursuit of continuous innovation
About ten years ago, the automotive industry was preparing for legislation imposed by the European Union that would impose very hefty fines on cars with excessive CO2 emissions – €95 per gram of CO2 above the limit of 120g per kilometer, per car sold in the EU, to be exact.
Our polyamide 46 product Stanyl® had a modest share of the timing chain guide market, used as a low-wear plastic guide for the chains. It was actually the lowest friction material available on the market – a fact that we knew, but that was a relative secret to the big car manufacturers. The entire timing chain system has a real impact on fuel economy and emissions due to the resulting friction. We connected this fact to the coming legislation and saw a real opportunity in front of us!
I still remember sitting in my kitchen on a Saturday morning back in 2009 after a long work week, determined to crack the code and quantify the connection between Stanyl’s friction performance and the resulting lower CO2 emissions. My wife was out for the morning, so I brewed another pot of coffee and began working out some calculations. When we finished, I knew right away that we had something big here. The friction benefit meant that, for an additional €1 in raw material for Stanyl, manufacturers could avoid the €95 emissions penalty.
Once we understood the potential value of using Stanyl in the timing chain system, we knew we needed to take this not only to our direct customers – system suppliers for the timing chain – but also straight to the car manufacturers. After all, they would have to pay the fines! And if we could convince them of Stanyl’s value, they could in turn specify that it be used by the system suppliers. In 2010, the first OEM who tested Stanyl decided to specify it for all new engines.
We didn’t stop there, though. This wasn’t just a science project; this is a true innovation with real business impact, and we wanted to boost value even further. We created a material with even lower friction – Stanyl HGR2 – and again collaborated with a car manufacturer, as one of their models was up for an engine makeover. With a strong focus on best fuel economy possible, they tested HGR2 thoroughly. And it worked! They validated it for usage in one of their engines which led to us winning the 2017 SPE (Society of Plastics Engineers) Automotive Innovation Award - a really proud moment for all of us. It was the culmination of many years’ work to become a valuable partner to the auto manufacturers.
I think the biggest factor in our success is excellent international collaboration; we simply couldn’t have done it otherwise. Manufacturers in Japan are different from China who are different from those in Europe and America. The argument for our materials is the same, but the story needs to be told in slightly different ways for each one in order to be convincing. We have experts across the globe who knew just how to do that – it was truly impressive. We wouldn’t be DSM if we weren’t living up to our Bright Science mission, so we continue to explore the potential of these materials.
Can we reduce friction even further? It’s one of the things I enjoy most about working here – there are very low boundaries to venture out, engage and take chances!