Cooley On Cars
Why is my car made of plastic?Fun fact: Some of the biggest parts of your car are made of the same stuff as your phone case.
Hey folks, Cooley here, another question from you about high-tech cars and modern driving. This one comes in from Janada in Ottawa, Canada, has a question about plastic. He starts off saying, I love the show and have been a fan since your first car review around 2005, an Acura, I think. Good trivia. Our first car review ever was the one I did on the 2005 Acura RL. And believe it or not, it's still up. [LAUGH] Very interesting. We were blown away by the fact that it had navigation with traffic in 20 cities. And bluetooth phone pairing, we've come a long way. Let's go back to his email. He says I'd like to know your thoughts on this new trend of putting these ugly body cladding parts around the fenders on new SUVs. I'm in the market for one and can't seem to find any that don't have them. I personally think they look very ugly when they're new and would look even worse once the black plastic starts to fade. Well you got an interesting point you are making here [UNKNOWN] There used to be a time when you look at a car that had a plastic on it you would say, what a cheap car. Today plastic kind of became a prestige trim to be honest. Let's take a look at why there are plastic around those parts of the car and around the vehicle in general. First of all when you have a plastic trimmer around a [UNKNOWN] Compared to painted metal. It makes the vehicle look a little younger, more youthful, sportier, a little more rugged perhaps if it's a jeep or an off-road vehicle. That's what that communicates. Imagine that same car with a painted metal edge Edge all the way down to the lip and you have a little dressier, a little more mature, a little older looking car to be honest. That may work depending on the model but in all these cases I bet they're going for a sportier, more youthful appearance. And that black plastic actually says Is that. It also says cheap to my eye, I'm with you on that. But the over riding message is sportier and more youthful. I also wanna point out to you that whenever you have a change in parts, that tends to impart a greater degree of hand craftedness in a vehicle. Believe it or not, even though we're talking about plastic. If you look at the interiors of cars, they get great kudos when they have more changing materials next to each other as opposed to one big expanse of one material. So, to the eye, changing adjacent materials in a car tends Is to impart a nicer richer look. Again, even if it's a cheap material. Let's talk about plastic in general though. Cause it's used around those trims, but it's way more used around the front and rear of almost every car out there. What used to be called the bumper. Bumper cover, it's way beyond the bumper now. And here's why plastic is so common, first of all it's cheap. It's cheaper than automotive grade aluminum or steel, car makers love that, and if it functions just as well for less money, they definitely love that. It's moldable, back before World War II, the word plastic was an adjective not a noun. Plastic means moldable, now we call it plastic as a material. But in fact that modality is key. There are things you can do in plastic, look at the front and rear of any car. That you almost can't do in metal, you can't bend it that way. Sharp compounds curves and shapes right next to each other, are kind of impossible in steel and aluminium. You end up making separate parts, welding them together, grinding down the scene. Costs are going through the roof at that point. Plastic, you just mold the damn thing in that shape. Then there's this idea of flexibility in every day use. One, two, three mile per hour bumps and dings in traffic and parking lots, it bounces right back, metal doesn't do that. Insurance companies love Flexible parts. Plastic is light. This is a big deal for car makers who are saving every ounce to get better MPG which therefore leads to lower emissions, better handling. Whenever you've got less weight above the wheels, all this stuff is really important. And plastic delivers it without even trying. And finally, it's rustproof. Not just Rust resistent, rustproof. I mean, most metal on a car today doesn't rust very commonly. Those days are gone. The plastic doesnt rust at all. And when you put it down low ont he vehicle, around bumper covers and those fender arch trims, where salt and water tends to get and sit. You really have a win for corrosion resistance. So these are the reasons that cars are made of plastic to a pretty high degree and will be more in the future. By the way none of this would be new to people like Local Motors who have been 3D printing plastic cars on kind of an experimental basis for a while, even to Henry Ford who commissioned a plastic Ford right after World War II made of soy bean. And a tubular frame, so the idea is not that new. The benefits are durable. [MUSIC] [NOISE]