High-strength plastic windows will soon replace the window glass in some vehicles, reported Detroit News.
Innovations in plastics and plastics composites have produced a range of lightweight materials that are stronger, more impact resistant and offer more versatility than ever before.
Polycarbonate which have been used for some time in race cars, as well as more recently in a few performance road cars, is now set to appear on the humble 2014 Fiat 500L wagon to help cut weight. Auto glass weighs around 100 pounds of a car’s weight, but polycarbonate windows could weigh half of that.
The polycarbonate also has to meet scratch-resistance requirements and must be able to withstand defrosters in cold weather and need to have special ultraviolet protection to prevent yellow and cloudy hazing over time. The other potential stumbling block is cost, since polycarbonate windows can be twice as expensive as their glass equivalents, though price could come down if the technology is more widely adopted.
Compression moulding techniques allow the plastic to be formed into all manner of shapes much more easily than glass. Windows could even be formed into aerodynamic shapes themselves, without compromising strength or increasing complexity.
Current safety regulations prohibit the use of polycarbonate in door windows and windshields, since plastic windows increase the risk of injury to unbelted passengers since they don’t shatter.
Fiat may be among the first automakers to embrace the idea, but Ford is just about done with its own polycarbonate window testing; plastic rear windows could appear on the next Ford Transit Connect van.