Market challenges driving technology advances in automotive elastomers

Market challenges driving technology advances in automotive elastomers
The global automotive industry is going through a difficult phase in 2022 due to a number of changing and challenging circumstances. These challenges and the related opportunities that span over the next five years are outlined in a new market report from Smithers, The Future of Automotive Elastomers to 2027.

The automotive elastomer market is expected to reach 23.8 thousand tonnes in 2022 and is forecast to grow to 27.8 thousand tonnes in 2027. The key markets are tyres, thermoset elastomers and thermoplastic elastomers. The leading region in 2022 is Asia/Pacific, which will grow from 12.5 thousand tonnes in 2022, to 14.9 thousand tonnes in 2027, with a CAGR of 3.59%, according to Smithers’ new research.

The market in general has been suffering from decreasing sales of all classes of vehicles, especially the passenger and light commercial classes. In addition to this, the industry was in the middle of coming to terms with the fact that it had no choice but to develop electrically powered vehicles to maintain its global position. It is essential that the global elastomer market react positively to both current and future challenges as well as provide the necessary support to the automotive industry to guarantee both its current and future status.

Technological advances
Key technology areas detailed in The Future of Automotive Elastomers to 2027 are: A common series of regulations for automotive elastomers that will require recycling of all components, with chemical recycling being considered as the most economical route; rising costs of labour and excessive waste production will drive all automotive thermoset elastomer suppliers to adopt efficient automated processes, and more efficient electrically-powered systems will allow for elimination of the internal combustion engine.

Key elastomers for automotive applications
The global market for automotive elastomers is divided into three groups, namely tyre elastomers, non-tyre thermoset elastomers and thermoplastic elastomers.

Natural rubber still dominates the tyre market, but price movements both up and down during the 2020 and 2021 periods indicate a degree of uncertainty about its future. There are certain possible problems looming on the horizon, concerning the risk of outbreaks of several rubber tree leaf diseases, which have recently attacked Indonesian rubber plantations and could spread to Malaysia and perhaps Thailand, the major natural rubber producing countries. There is now an increasing interest in switching to Guayule as a natural rubber source, especially in the US and France. Progress is slow and as of the beginning of 2022, and there appears to be nowhere nearly enough natural rubber produced from these sources to make up any losses that Asia might incur, should the leaf disease problems run out of control.

Thermoset elastomers
The slow but steady shift from thermoset elastomers to thermoplastic elastomers is a primary market trend taking placing during the report period. This shift is occurring primarily due to their ease of processing and their recycling potential, which is practically 100 percent. The increased use of solution SBR and BR in the production of tyres is also noteworthy. Bio-sourced monomers are now receiving a higher level of attention as is the chemical recycling of all automotive elastomers. The hope is that the switch to electrical propulsion will stimulate new growth, providing that unpredictable outside forces do not interfere to any serious extent.
Thermoplastic elastomers
Both TPS and TPV are showing good growth, but the advent of cross-linked TPS will start to move ahead of that of the PP/EPDM-based TPV, due to its superior heat resistance potential combined with high-flow SEBS elastomers.
Regional dominance
The Asia-Pacific region will continue to dominate the world’s automobile elastomer market for a long way into the future. China in particular, leads the world market representing 54% of the Asia/Pacific 2021 and remaining so even up to 2027.

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