How Are Environmental Policies Influencing Automotive Elastomer Usage?

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Elastomers are made of polymers that are connected by chemical bonds, which gives a slightly cross-linked structure to the materials. Elastomers are rubber-like materials that comprise long, chainlike molecules or polymers that retain their original form after being elongated. The long molecules are ideally coiled irregularly, but they straighten in the direction of the pull, upon the application of force. After being released, the long molecules automatically regain their original state. The elastomeric rubber compounds encompass five-to-ten components, wherein each component plays a specific role.

Polymer, the prime ingredient of elastomers, offers optimum chemical and heat resistance to these materials. The ingredient also enables elastomers to perform well under low temperatures. Another key component of elastomers is carbon black, which is added as a reinforcing filler, to offer strength. Besides, plasticizers are also integrated into elastomers, to enhance their low-temperature performance. Moreover, the production process of elastomers also uses accelerators, curatives, release packages, anti-oxidants, and scorch retarders.

The automobile industry uses two types of elastomers — thermoplastic and synthetic — for the production of lightweight and fuel-efficient vehicles. Of these, thermoplastic automotive elastomers offer higher durability and better physical properties than synthetic materials. Whereas, synthetic automotive elastomers offer a high45 resistance to low and high temperatures, corrosion, and pressure. These artificial materials are made from petroleum by-products. Considering the respective properties of these elastomers, automobile manufacturers are expected to increase the consumption of thermoplastic materials in the coming years.

Geographically, the Asia-Pacific region adopted the highest volume of automotive elastomers in the past, due to the rapid expansion of the automotive sector and surge in the adoption of lightweight materials among the automobile producers in the region. Moreover, the soaring pollution levels and increasing environmental regulations in Australia, Indonesia, and India to combat greenhouse gas levels have fueled the application of automotive elastomers. Additionally, the booming population and escalating income levels in APAC countries have led to the heavy consumption of these polymers in vehicle production.

Furthermore, the automotive elastomers market of North America and Europe will show significant growth in the near future. This would be because several North American and European nations are adhering to emission standards, by focusing on fuel economy. This has eventually led to the widescale adoption of lightweight, high-precision, and durable automotive elastomers for weather seals, gaskets, and hoses of vehicles. For instance, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set a 143-grams-per-mile (g/mi) emission limit for passenger cars, to be met by 2025.

Thus, the rising initiatives by government and international organizations to reduce pollution levels will increase the adoption of automotive elastomers in the coming years.

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