Polyurethane is the second most often used polymer in automobiles, after polypropylene. There is a total of ~28 kg of polyurethanes on average in light vehicles, out of which 60% is flexible foam used in seating. Some 10% is used in carpet underlay/other insulators and headliners each, while the rest can be found in small quantities in head-rests, armrests and consoles, steering wheels, dashboard insulators and IP and door panels.
Picture 1, Polyurethane usage around the car, ICIS (2021)
To gain a better understanding of the opportunities and challenges polyurethanes may face in the future, ICIS carried out a market study on behalf of EURO-MOULDERS to assess the trends, drivers and possible scenarios for PU in automobiles in the long term. It was released in October 2021, for members of EURO-MOULDERS and EUROPUR.
The study is based on desk-research and interviews with raw material producers, polyurethane parts producers, Tiers 1s and OEMs. It covers all types of polyurethane, not just flexible foam and addresses key issues such as sustainability, recycling, e-mobility and end-of-life vehicles.
The report concludes that polyurethane will remain the material of choice towards 2030 for most applications in the vehicles where it is currently used. The areas where it could face competition by other materials are door panels and soft trim. Due to the electrification of vehicles, it is expected that in some areas such as NVH, heat insultaiotn or battery packs its market share will grow.