A lot of us spend all day in our cars – going to work, picking up kids, running errands – but most of us never think about what goes into making our vehicle tick. When you’re spending your time shuttling your most precious cargo from point A to point B, it’s reassuring to know that from the bumpers, to the airbags, to the seatbelts, there is one innovative material helping to keep you and your family safe. That material? Plastics.

So where might plastics be playing a role in your vehicle? Check it out:

Body & Exterior

  • Plastic body panels & bumpers: Plastic body panels and front and rear bumpers are designed to absorb impact energy in the event of a crash, so that much of the energy is kept away from the occupants. These structures, when made of plastic materials, can weigh as much as 50 percent less while absorbing four to five times more energy than steel or aluminum.
  • Windows & headlights: Plastic windshields and headlamps are helping drivers see more clearly while enhancing design options. Windshields are shatter-resistant thanks to a thin layer of plastic sandwiched between two layers of glass, which is lighter and stronger than tempered glass. Headlamps are also lighter and more shatter-resistant thanks to the use of plastic.
  • Plastic paint film: Plastic paint film is slowly replacing traditional automotive paint on some parts of new cars. 15 times thicker than traditional paint, this paint film is more resistant to scratches, chips, and UV degradations, and retains a high-gloss, showroom shine longer than traditional paint.


  • Safety features: Interior safety features such as seat belts and air bags are made of materials such as tough, tear-resistant nylon to help protect you and your passengers in the event of a collision.
  • Today’s bottles, tomorrow’s upholstery: Some manufacturers are using post-consumer recycled plastic and plant-based plastics in innovative interior applications, including upholstery and foams used to cushion passenger seats.

Powertrain & Chassis

  • Plastic fuel lines & tank: Plastic fuel tanks have several advantages over traditional steel fuel tanks that are prone to corrosion from fuel and exterior elements like dirt, salt, and road chemicals. A plastic fuel tank made of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) is inert to the corrosive environments inside and outside of the tank. A plastic fuel tank also has a key safety feature: since it can be manufactured as a single part without soldered seams, there are no seams to fail in a collision.
  • Hybrid & electric vehicle batteries: New alternative energy vehicles incorporate advances in battery technology using new-generation lithium-polymer batteries that are smaller and run cooler. So where are the plastics in these batteries? For lithium-polymer, read “lithium-plastic.” Lithium-polymer batteries are widely used in cell phones today, and tomorrow they may power your plug-in car.

Now I’d like to give you a chance to win another piece of plastic – a $100 Gas Gift Card.

Mandatory Entry

To enter the contest, leave a comment answering the following question: Visit Plastics Make it PossibleSM and let me know about a plastics innovation that surprised or impressed you.

Additional Entries

After you have submitted your mandatory entry, you can receive additional entries by doing any or all of the following things:

Mocha Dad’s “Plastics Make it Possible: Win a $100 Gas Card Contest” starts on Thursday, November 18, 2010 and ends Sunday, November 28, 2010 at 11:59 p.m. (CST), and is open to all Mocha Dad readers, subscribers, and/or fans in the continental U.S. No purchase required. Relatives and employees of Mocha Dad Media are not eligible to win. Winners will be chosen via and announced on Monday, November 29, 2010. You must leave your contact information to collect your prize. If a winner does not respond within 5-days, a new winner will be chosen.