Truck manufacturer adopts lightweight plastic for heavy truck oil pan

Paul Boughton

DuPont Performance Polymers and ElringKlinger AG have made a contribution to the heavy truck industry’s drive for fuel efficiency and emissions reduction by developing a lightweight injection-moulded truck oil pan of DuPont Zytel polyamide resin.

Developed for an international truck manufacturer, the oil pan is up to 50 per cent lighter than aluminium, and can resist stone and gravel chip impact during the typical 1.5 million kilometre lifetime of a truck or bus engine. There is also a 2dB reduction in noise level compared with metal.

Weight reduction translates into better fuel efficiency and sustainability for heavy-duty trucks, while helping to meet tough Euro 6 emission limits. The use of lightweight Zytel polyamide resin makes lighter weight components possible with no loss of strength, and also enables the integration of functions that are not possible with metal, such as oil pick up pipes and fluid level sensors

“From 2013/2014, the Euro 6 emissions standard will launch a new generation of engines onto the roads; it imposes the same kind of strict emission limits for diesel as for petrol engines. This is why manufacturers are not only focusing on efficiently reducing exhaust gases, but also on lowering fuel consumption. With this in mind, they are pinpointing lighter-weight components in particular. The trend is towards oil pans made of polyamide 6.6 with a glass fibre content of 35 per cent,” said Klaus Bendl, Head of R&D, Elastomer Technology /Modules Division at ElringKlinger AG, Dettingen/Erms, Germany.

As a trend-setter in the transition to plastics for large oil pan mouldings, ElringKlinger selected a heat stabilized, lubricated grade of Zytel polyamide, following four years of prototype production and more than 3000 hours of endurance testing.

“There is also a significant improvement in acoustics – a 2dB reduction in noise level is much more than that achieved with competing products,” says Bendl, citing another advantage that plastics have over metals by helping to make engines quieter, in compliance with Euro 6 noise emission standards.

Truck oil pans are much larger and more complex than those for passenger cars, holding up to ten times the volume of oil, and they must be considerably more robust in order to withstand truck engine lifetimes averaging 800 000 to 1.5 million kilometres.

ElringKlinger has succeeded in meeting those tough performance demands by commercialising two large but lightweight oil pan modules of Zytel for new Mercedes-Benz 4 and 6-cylinder diesel engines. They weigh only 4.5 kg and 6.3 kg respectively — up to 50 percent lighter than their aluminium predecessors — and contribute to improved fuel economy and reduced emissions.

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