What are the pros and cons of plastic cars?
by wcunning - 6/6/07 1:57 PM
In my recent column, The plastic transparent car, I wrote about increasing use of plastics in car body panels. Would you buy a car with a plastic body?
by: wcunning June 6, 2007 1:57 PM PDT
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I understand what you're saying. The suburban, in particular, is one of the most dangerous SUVs out there. Any pickup or SUV larger than a Ford F150 has more blind spots than an 18-wheeler. The only time an 18-wheeler can't see is directly behind him. The sticker stating "IF YOU CAN'T SEE MY MIRRORS, I CAN'T SEE YOU!" is true. Some of the big-rigs even have mirrors on the front hood's corners to cover the few blind spots they have left.
I think the suburban is a good example. But the problem with it is that most of the yuppie-mobiles out there are escalades or the ford,chevy,etc. knockoffs. They actually have less visibility than the newer suburban. The newer suburban is much smaller than an escalade or excursion.
If a person wants to have 5 kids, plus gear, in their car, they could own a subaru legacy or an equivelant wagon. The Mazda whatever is a good one. That 'crossover SUV' gets decent mileage and has plenty of room. There a good selection of minivans out there that are fairly reasonable though. But that just wouldn't show off how much debt your husband's paycheck can handle, so I guess that's just an unreasonable suggestion. Am I right?
till next time,
there are definitly better choices but i was looking at it from the perspective that they already owned the burban. if it's already bought and paid for, wait until it's time to replace it and then re-evaluate. until then only use it for what it was intended for.
I have been reading this forum and thought I'd share some views and experiences.
As far as accidents go, I've been in a few but I'm going to share the two most recent experiences. A year and a half ago I was rear ended by a '02 Toyota Corolla while driving an '03 Hyundai Santa Fe. The other driver hit me doing 65 MPH while talking on her cell phone. I was stopped. The toyota had major damage and my truck escaped with relatively minor damage. As for myself, I have continuing medical problems from the accident, but I was pretty lucky. I need a large vehicle due to the nature of my work, and I love driving an SUV. I did make one concession though, I traded the Santa Fe for a Tucson due to gas milage concerns. Point is that just because you drive a small car, it doesn't make you a better driver.
Just before memorial day this year, my wife was on her way to work. She drives an '05 Scion Xa. She was hit by an '02 International Dump Truck. The driver of the truck changed lanes because he was going to fast in the right lane and swerved to avoid a slower vehicle. His bumper hit just in front of the rear wheel on the passenger side, the momentum caused a kind of pit maneuver that spun her sideways and struck her the full length of her car on the passenger side. His excuse "I never even saw you". The reinforcing bars in the doors did thier job. There was paint on them from the bumper of the truck. Funny aside, the windows did not break which I found quite amazing. She has some back injuries, but she could have been a lot worse. Little car is very well put together.
The point is that it's the people driving that you have to worry about more than what they're driving. Asking the government to step in on anything is a sure way to screw things up worse than what they were in the first place.
On to global warming. This is probably the most controversial topic. I am convinced that there are climate changes taking place, however I don't believe humans are the complete cause. The earth has gone through climate changes throughout it's history, some of them quite catostrophic to the species living here at the time. What factory or car caused the ice ages? My second question: If we have managed to affect the climate of the planet on a global scale, what makes you think we could change it back now? Even the U.N. report (mostly a farce if you ask me, but nonetheless) states that stopping all production of CO2 and other measures being pushed on people would likely have no effect. So what's the point? I believe that people need to be concious of thier enviroment, but trying to push us back into the stone age is not the answer. The worst thing is that all the developing nations get screwed in the process of the industrialized nation going through an attack of concience.
good points, but skew them a little.
You're right when you say it's mostly the drivers out there. They are truly the danger on the roads. But that's exactly my point. The title SUV stands for something, Sport/Utility Vehicle. The gas guzzler tax does not apply to them for a reason. That title belongs on vehicles that are intended for work or recreation. That title is not intended to exempt the soccer-mom who's husband is a lawyer or a doctor. But people buy them. The Gas-Guzzler Tax was intended to encourage people to buy more economic vehicles, but I don't know of a single case where somebody actually had to pay that tax. That's because all of the 'SUVs' are labeled as such.
I don't blame you for driving a large vehicle if you need it for work. But just because somebody might work for a construction company doesn't mean they need a Dodge Ram 3500 super-diesel with duelies. They would need a Ford Ranger or Chevy S-10. There should be some discretion in the vehicle according to workload.
The term 'SUV' should not apply to BMWs, Cadillacs, Mercedes, etc... They should require a special liscence to drive, just like other commercial vehicles and be for work only. They require a special skill to drive them safely, just like the big-rigs. And just like the big-rigs, they should require special training, liscencing, and purpose. I've never seen an Escalade or an X5 hauling wood or on the off-road trails. They are just a waste of money, no more than a status symbol.
Global warming. It's been proven, I'm glad you brought up those points though. The earth does go through natural cycles of CO2 and the theory is that that is the main cause. The earth gets hotter over thousands of years, melts the ice caps. Then the ocean currents change and water level goes up. The result is major portions of earth get covered in water and the plants live while the animals die, for the most part. This returns the cycle back to oxygen and the earth cools down because the deminishment of CO2 allows the heat from the sun to radiate out back to space. The north and south poles freeze again because they recieve less sun then the rest of the planet. Temperatures start to come back up and animals can start thriving again.
That's the basic, very simplified cycle.
But there are other things to consider. The levels of CO2 are one thing. By ice core samples dating back olmost 700,000yrs from antarctica, the CO2 level never got above 300ppb. That's in a history of 700 millenia! Right now we're approaching 400ppb by the same measurements. So the theory is that we're already dead. The next ice age is supposedly inevitable. But what we can do is reduce our emissions so we can hold the fort a little longer.
I think of it this way, I know I'm going to die. I don't know how, but I know I will. You will too. But that doesn't mean I shold go out shooting meth and have bycicle races going the wrong way on I-95 over the Goldstar bridge. I'd be considered a suicidal criminal. Why wouldn't you apply the same logic to the planet. We know another ice age is coming. Some projections say that it'll be within the next 50yrs, even less. That's if we don't change what we're doing. CO2 levels will supposedly be over 700ppb. That has alot to do with the cars we drive and the way we use energy. We've already caused the worst ice age that the earth will ever undergo, but we can delay it.
So using that logic, which makes sense to me, people like andy77e and cw(whatever, cwhiner, cwhoopidydoodah) who want to drive tanks because they feel safer and can be a jerk on the roads migh as well just slit their wives' and childrens' throats now. It'll be quick. That'll save them from dying horribly with their children in a flood or whatever catastrophic climate change is coming very soon.
So all that nonsense really does come to a point. For global warming and your own pocket-book, not just safety or the illusion thereof. This forum discusses plastic cars. I think it's a good idea. Your wife's scion is a light-weight vehicle and gets great mileage. But if all that siding, including the hood, roof, and trunk would be replaced with plastic, it would be a lot lighter. You might get a couple miles/gallon out of it. That'll help you a little in the pocketbook. But on a nation-wide scale, it would help the planet a little. People mention safety as an issue. All those cages and crossbars that re-inforce your car wouldn't go anywhere. The siding provides no protection. Those reinforcing parts could be replaced with a carbon-fiber or other light-weight and stronger than steel composite.
Plastic cars and your Global warming thoughts; bravo!
Good thinking and it agrees with almost everyone at a leading website for CLEAR thinkers:
My view is that we have a case of global pollution. The warming trend may be more of a weather shifteng thing.
This morning here on Vancouver island it was 6% C. That is unusually cold for June 26th.
I read somewhere that global warming is more affected by one puff from Mount St. Helens than from our dirty industrial habits.
Looks like plastic for cars is getting quite a lot of credit in this forum. You should see my *87 Wagoneer. Photo:
Still looks good and built **Brinks Truck** strong. Guess the plastic fender liners helped keep the rust away.
The four cylinder motor [239K ] is getting tired. Is the Jeep too heavy to convert to a 10-battery E-vehicle? [similar project];
no one says that we have to "buy in responce to the current market" we , as Americans, can buy what we want as an individual. if someone has the income to feed a monster truck that gets 3 miles to the gallon and that's what they choose to do then so be-it! your injury had nothing to do with what hit you it's because of the accident itself. people make mistakes and sometimes it causes an accident. you made an informed decision to drive that day, knowing the risks. yet instead of walking, taking the bus or riding a bicycle you jumped in the car anyways.
before judging others we need to take at hard look at ourselves!
First, my injury had everything to do with what hit me. I would have had far fewer injuries if hit by a vehicle that weighted equal to or less than me. Second,I drive a vehicle that gets 26 mpg and holds 7 (a Honda van). I am proud of my compromise choice between safety and green. Third, Yes, I made a decision to drive but someone else made a decision to drive a big truck poorly. Not my choice and I did nothing wrong. I knew this was a possibility, so I planned accordingly, with the best vehicle compromise I could think of. If I lived in the closed community, as some in this chat have proposed, then I would happily take public transportation, bike or drive a plastic mini-car like everyone else. Fourth, before you judge anyone else's choice, please realize that there is no efficient public transportation where I live: the trip that I took that day took 1 hour door to door: public transportation would have been 5 plus hours -which is just not doable. (obviously biking is out of the question). Most Americans live in such places: your worldview needs to acknowledge the compromise we make daily in our choices.
i didn't mean to blame the victim but what i wanted to do is bring up the fact that it takes hundreds/thousands of variables to put us in that exact spot at that very time. plus you said it yourself....."drive a big truck POORLY". what had more to do with your injuries (1) THE BIG TRUCK OR (2) POORLY DRIVEN ???
you also say that public transportation was available but because it was going to take too long it wasn't doable... choices again!!!
i agree 100% that my worldwide view of the way we are living in America is pretty poor. everyone is wanting their own acre lot and nice house as far away from the hustle and bustle of the city as possible. then our groceries are 10 miles to the north, our job is 20 miles to the south, the private school for the kids is 15 miles to the east and the only decent Dr.s are 40 miles to the west. then we ***** because gas is $3 a gallon and it takes 3 hours a day to run the kids around.
I think people decide that lighter vehicles get better gas mileage and buy one. What happens? They are more than likely to increase how much they drive. How is that better for the environment? You are driving further with less, but then you start driving more and using more than before.
The reason taxes and higher prices do not work is because we are accustomed to comfort. No US resident today wants to be without the luxury of gasoline--and we will pay for it. We will pay for it until we can no longer obtain it reasonably. This is a cultural issue.
I drive a heavy weight volvo wagon. I will drive it until I can no longer drive it. I consider myself a green person. Why? I'm green in many things. However, the way that I am green with my gas guzzlin wagon is that I try not to drive it as much as--YES--even people in light plastic cars.
It is up to you--
You decide how much to spend on gasoline. Don't blame it solely on the vehicle.
i think we all just need to do our part. there's no need to be crazy about things but we need to recycle our paper, glass and plastic. plus keep our vehicles tuned, tires inflated and cut down on excessive driving. i think the state of urban sprawl needs to addressed and quickly. instead of just a gas guzzler tax how about a tax on people who drive over 30 miles (each way) to get to work
before judging others, judge yourself.
I'd just like to state my 100% support of your statement. How I wish some people on this forum would take that to heart.
To repeat the gem of truth:
"before judging others we need to take at hard look at ourselves!"
Remember that before you start painting everyone who doesn't drive what you want them too, with a broad brush of judgementalism.
What will the HumVee look like after a tangle with a Semi? My solution to, buy a tank. You get my drift?
Most likely, it will look like a Hummer with a dent in the side, and a driver that's really happy his car wasn't made of plastic.
Its the super structure or cage system that will save your butt not the so-called sheet metal. Hummers included. If a Hummer H2 or H3 had plastic skins, the human would be in no better condition. The skin tin is not a part of collision protection anymore; the engineering of the structure system is your collision protection, period!
One thing that isn't true. If you get hit by a Honda Insight, your both likely to die, not neither.
See metal verses metal, they bounce off each other, and it's the safety features inside the car the make the difference.
Metal verses plastic, and the metal one slices through and the plastic driver dies.
Plastic verses plastic, both cars disintegrate and both die. The idea that if everyone else is driving just as unsafe a car as yours, somehow means you're safer, is crazy.
I'm not hunting you or trying to pick on you, but the metal vs metal comment bothered me. I've seen metal vs metal, they do not just bounce off each other like rubber balls. They crush.
Even Hummers and escalades lose to a light pole or a tree. But I've never seen a tree move at 60mph and go head on with a humV.
I agree that the smaller, lighter metal or plastic car gets crushed. But depending on the impact, the lighter car gets moved rather than crushed. A lot of it depends on the angle and the difference in heights between the frames.
Also, bigger vehicles like SUV's are much more likely to turn over than the smaller cars. So even if the SUV crushes the del sol, it's pretty likely that the suv driver will lose control and die from the roll.
I didn't think anyone would actually respond to that since it was mostly in jest.
Of course they do not bounce off, but I think my point was clear, if not let me know.
Plastic cars simply disintegrate. I once watch a video of a crash involving two small cars at highway speed. One of the two cars was so oblitrated, there was not enough left to identify the model.
I wish you used some manner of indication when you are sarcastic or if you are just kidding. I thought you were really saying that.
I agree about the plastic and pop-together cars. My father drives a truck. A Kia Rio tried to cut him off on the freeway when he was changing lanes. The results were pretty bad. When the front-passenger bumper hit his rear-most driver-side tire, the whole car basically exploded, without the fire. The hood, three tires, and various panels popped off and flew down the road at the same time. That was only because of a simple frame twist, similar to how an Indy car is designed to separate in a collision. This woman is still alive because of that. She finished out the ride on the frame of her car and the fourth tire simply bent the rotor and axle while skidding sideways.
But if that had been a real collision instead of a terribly mismatched lovetap, then she would have been dead.
If cars went all plastic,I probably would still buy one the next time I buy a car. But that's my risk, and I am aware of the safety differences.
If cars were 100% plastic, you would be correct.
However, no manufacturer in their right mind would construct a car from 100% plastic. Current plastic technology has not yet produced compounds that are suitable for replacing steel passenger cages. So you won't be seeing any large volume vehicles that rely on plastic for crash protection any time soon.
50/50 plastic/steel (by weight) 75/25 (by volume)are possible now, with safety on par with current vehicles. I have no doubt that some day, a 95% plastic vehicle will be possible. New compounds and composites are coming out all the time, and eventually one of them will be equal or better steel for impact protection.
I was in an S-10 pickup and rolled it twice, I was not hurt at all, other than a blood nose. That pickup was a tiny little thing, I highly doubt an SUV rolled twice would yield a more injured driver unless we are referring to something more flimsy like a tracker.
C-R-U-N-C-H i'm unhurt!!
The Smart 4-2 is one of the safest cars on the road, the black surround is a tridium shell (like an indicar safety cage) which will withstand a 70mph impact without buckling. Sure if you hit it hard enough, you may get injured but the same can be said of a rich mans tractor ( hummer etc) or a challenger tank.
I would rather be hit in my Smart car, than a POSH "farm vehicle" at least i will be pushed along, rather than rooted to the spot watching my tailgate getting closer to my windshield.
When the new smart goes on sale in the states, you will be amazed at all the safety features it has.After all it is a mercedes.
Just because it's plastic...
A lot of people here need to understand what composite materials are. These aren't the same plastics used in toys. Most composite materials are much stronger and lighter than the tin used in conventional cars. However, these materials are probably not as cheap as tin and aluminium is.
So 'plastic' cars are not really plastic per se, but rather a type of SPECIAL plastic that is stronger and lighter than the current metals used in cars. In the event of a collision, these materials won't simply shatter or crack -- instead they flex and bend. If you have two composite cars colliding, then the damage would be absorbed better. If you have a "metal tank" colliding with your composite car, you won't get a shattered plastic toy, but rather the same twisted wreck you'll get with a tin and aluminium car -- except there won't be any metal to sever your limbs. Engineers aren't idiots. They'll give you something that is safe, not something that breaks.
I don't like cars, so I don't own one anymore - but...
I think the fear most people have is completely irrational.
I mean, I understand that everyone wants to roll around town in a tank but that's just not reasonable these days.
Smart cars (or "Dumb Cars" as my friends call them) look much safer than most people give them credit for.
The reason cars crumple so much these days is because they are ultra-thin for economy. They are so thin, in fact, that if they were not designed with strength-enhancing shapes and folds in the metal they would be rolling death traps (much more so than they are).
The cabin in a modern unibody car is a marvel of engineering. There is barely any steel around you these days at all but it's still strong enough to withstand tons of pressure.
The engine compartment and trunk are designed with fewer "rails" (folded sections that add strength) so they crumple like an accordian and absorb the crash energy.
A smart car would simply bounce and the plastic panel would shatter all over the pace.
Like the above person said, you'd need to buy a new body panel and you'd likely walk away fine if you were seatbelted properly.
Move to all cars being plastic, and we'd all be safer.
People used to think that the big heavy cars of the sixties and seventies were safer, just like people think SUVs are safer. I used to work investigating serious and fatal motor vehicle accidents and a high percentage of them involved SUVs. Statistics have shown that they aren't safer than cars. People only think they are. They are more likely to get into accidents and more forceful accidents. Due to the higher mass of the vehicle, there is more momentum (mass x velocity). Changing speed and/or direction takes more force (force = mass x acceleration).
If we all drove lighter cars, we could stop more easily and avoid collisions. And if we all had lighter cars, when we collided, there would be less energy transferred from car to car and their occupants.
by Andy77e - 6/30/07 8:19 PM
In Reply to: Move to all cars being plastic, and we'd all be safer. by dhchiang
The problem with "high percentage of them involved SUVs" is that there is a high percentage of SUVs on the road.
So it is not relevant. It would be like pointing out that the number of 8-track tape players reporting problems is a mere fraction of CD-players reporting problems. Well duh, no one uses 8 tracks anymore.
A high percentage of crashes involve SUVs, well duh there's a large number of SUVs on the road. A high percentage of non-SUVs are in accidents too... figure that out.
I would not be interested in buying a plastic car. The present design of metal car shells offers almost perfect protection in a thunder and lightning storm. Anyone in the interior of a metal car has little to fear in such a storm. It is not the rubber tires that provide the protection but rather the metal shell. Plastic cars simply would not provide the same protection. Although it might seem to be a little bit of paranoia it is not. In states like Florida and Georgia there would be a real danger of driving around in a plastic car.
Okay, so tell us. How many people driving plastic cars get elecrocuted each year in thunderstorms?
Bob, that is not true. In fact if you are in a lightning storm and you get hit by lightning in a car, you are probably toast!!! The first thing you should do is seek shelter!!!! It does not matter if you are in a plastic car or not. Lightning (if your car gets struck)will kill you!!!! If there is enough voltage and amps you're toast baby!!!!!!
No, you're safer in a metal car if lightning strikes it. The electricity will go through the metal of the car, and -around- the passengers. The metal body forms a Faraday cage.
The real question, to whoever started this sub-thread, is if plastic cars are somehow less safe than metal ones in thunder storms. My opinion is that getting hit by lightning is so rare it's not worth bothering with.
plastic versus metal electric shock in cars
As far as I remember my screwdriver and wire cutters have plastic grips to shield me from shocks !!!!