Automotive Solution

Development Trends in Thermoplastic Elastomers for Automotive Use

Automotive Materials     Vol.11 No.2 December 2014 Issue #31

  • Photographs and diagrams have been omitted for copyright reasons.
  • 1.Background

      With growing interest in environmental issues today, the use of thermoplastic elastomers (TPEs) is spreading to many different areas, including automotive vehicles, consumer electronics, medicine, foods, cable and wires, and daily commodities. In automobiles, TPEs are contributing to lighter vehicle weight for better fuel efficiency. In this and other areas, their functions are leading directly to reductions in environmental impact through improvement in productivity, energy saving, and recyclability. The sense of crisis regarding environmental issues is especially strong in the automotive sector, as can be seen in the growth of vehicle categories such as electric vehicles (EV) and hybrid electric vehicles (HEV). Here TPEs are increasingly being used as a replacement for vulcanized rubber and flexible polyvinyl chloride (PVC), aimed at reducing vehicle weight for improved fuel efficiency and lower CO2 and NOx gas emissions, and at achieving greater recyclability, for the sake of environmental sustainability.

       In 2011, Japan domestic demand for TPEs [survey covering 11 resins: olefinic (TPO), styrenic (TPS), polyester-based (TPEE), vinyl chloride-based (TPVC), polyethylene chloride-based, chlorosulfonated polyethylene-based, polyurethane-based (TPU), polyamide-based, silicon rubber, acrylic rubber, fluoroelastomer rubber] amounted to 332,550 tons, including domestic and imported products. In 2012 this had grown to 342,700 tons, a year-on-year gain of 3 percent in demand.1) Further growth in domestic and overseas demand has been confirmed in 2013 and following, against the background of society’s focus on preserving the environment; and a high growth rate is expected to continue. By product, the two main materials TPO and TPS account for around 60 percent of domestic demand; and by sector, growth for use in automobiles has been most notable. The initial driver behind the switch to TPEs in automobiles was TPVC. Later its use declined amid calls to avoid PVC out of strong concerns for its environmental impact. More recently, however, its superiority in terms of cost-performance and global availability has come to be appreciated anew.

    5.Prospects for the Future

      In the 21st century, there is no way of ignoring the environmental issues threatening the entire world. The automotive sector is facing increasingly strong demands for lighter parts and materials, better recyclability, and elimination of halogens, likely leading to growing calls for switching from vulcanized rubber and PVC to TPE. At the same time, as the products around us continue to undergo functional enhancement, we have reached an age when materials are expected to deliver advanced performance and functions.

     Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation has a wide-ranging lineup of TPE products. With stable quality and unending efforts for further quality improvements, the company is meeting market needs and winning strong trust from customers. Aiming for new levels of advanced performance and functions going forward, the company is committed to continued growth with products that meet the needs not only of customers but of society and the environment.


    1) Published in the October 2013 edition of Kogyo Zairyo (Industrial Materials) (Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun Co., Ltd.) (


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