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Japan: Plastics slims down electric car

KAWASAKI, JAPAN (July 19, 3:45 p.m. ET) — Plastics are playing a role in helping a next-generation Japanese electric car slim down and extend its driving range 30 percent beyond current mass-produced electric vehicles.

The SIM-WIL prototype car, made by Japanese technology development firm SIM Drive Corp., uses plastics in key components like the in-wheel motor and as a film replacement for circuit boards.

DuPont, which supplied several materials to Kawasaki-based SIM Drive, said in a July 19 announcement that the use of lightweight materials and a unique “in-wheel” motor system were responsible for the significant increase in the car’s driving range.

“This project shows how light weight, high-performance materials such as Zytel HTN [nylon] can take extremes, allowing designers to bring innovation to electric and hybrid vehicles without adding weight associated with metal,” said James Hay, regional director of DuPont Performance Polymers, Asia Pacific.

Officials from SIM did not respond to a request for comment, but the company said when it announced the car in March that its goal is to build electric cars with the same performance and comfort as traditional gas-powered vehicles.

The SIM-WIL, for example, has acceleration similar to a mid-range sports car and an interior cabin the size of a luxury sedan but the body size of a subcompact, the Japanese firm said.

When it announced the vehicle, SIM Drive did not specifically mention any special role for plastics, but it did tout the use of new metals, including a monocoque steel space frame used for the first time.
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