NEWS: Plastic is the New Glass: 2014 Fiat 500L and Others Replacing Glass with Polycarbonate

February 11, 2013
2014 Fiat 500L Trekking Front Three Quarter 1
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With rising fuel economy standards and fuel costs, one of the ways automakers are looking to meet standards and save buyers' dollars is to trim weight. Heavier cars require more fuel, and we've seen recent increased use of lightweight materials like aluminum and carbon fiber, but automakers may be looking right at a good weight-saving trick: the windows.
According to The Detroit News, window glass comprises roughly 100 lbs of a car's curb weight; however, advances in polycarbonate glazing and plastics could shave half of that weight from cars in the near future. Fiat is one of the first automakers already starting to explore blending plastic and glass for windows – the rear three-quarter windows of the 2014 Fiat 500L (pictured) use a polycarbonate-glazed glass that has been compression molded to both add lightness and to fit as one seamless piece with the spoiler.
Those kinds of smaller side windows – and large glass pieces like panorama sunroofs – are the most likely place buyers should expect to start seeing polycarbonate and polycarbonate-glazed panes, says The Detroit News. However, don't expect to see the lightweight plastic and plastic/glass combinations on windshields or door windows because of safety standards: the polycarbonate doesn't crack like glass, which means it would be harder for emergency responders to help crash victims out of their vehicles.
Right now, cost is also prohibitive to automakers. Parag Surati, the general manager of sales and marketing at sunroof-maker Aisin World Corp of America told The Detroit News, "It definitely seems to be of interest when talking to (automakers), [but] there's a lot of weight in the vehicle because of glass, but (glazings) certainly aren't the most economical right now." There are also worries about polycarbonates being able to meet scratch-resistance requirements, to withstand winter defrosters, and to not become discolored or cloudy after exposure to ultraviolet light.
You'll currently find polycarbonate plastic used for headlight housing. What do you say – should automakers try using polycarbonate plastic and polycarbonate-glazed glass on windows, or just stick to glass? Let us know in the comments section.
2014 Fiat 500L Rear Three Quarter

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