Specialty Fabrics Review May 2021 - 51

the development of EVs for mid-range
and last-mile deliveries. In January
2020, the World Economic Forum
predicted that the number of delivery
vehicles in the top 100 cities globally
will increase by 36 percent until 2030,
with emissions from delivery traffic
growing by 32 percent.
Early this year, GM announced
a new division focused on electric
delivery vehicles called BrightDrop,
with Federal Express the first customer.
The announcement followed U.S.
automaker Rivian's 2019 commitment
to deliver 100,000 electric delivery
vans designed for Amazon, and Ford's
introduction of its E-Transit cargo van
late last year.
Electric versions of heavy-duty
and long-haul trucks from the likes
of Volvo, Daimler and Tesla are not
far behind. And while delivery
vehicles may not sport all the bells
and whistles being designed into
passenger automobiles, commitments
to fuel efficiency and sustainability
signal opportunity for the suppliers
of nonwoven textiles.

Touch-based surfaces
Dr. Heather Nelson is director of
displays and in-mold electronics at ESI
Automotive, based in Waterbury, Conn.
She sees a strong consumer demand
for replacing mechanical switches with
touch-sensitive and fully integrated
displays. In addition to the space and
weight saving, it can also offer a more
sanitized surface by eliminating the
need for dust-trapping bevel edging,
an issue that barely registered with
consumers pre-COVID.
In terms of integration, Nelson
sees much being done in bonding
the electronics to the back of a
flexible substrate at present, with the
next stage being two-film solutions,
and ultimately a single film free of

" ghosting, " so that circuitry underneath
cannot be seen.
Establishing the value chain is
vital to achieving this, with many
manufacturers exploring ways that they
can expand and evolve their capability.
Much of the commercialized hybrid
electronic materials are polymer-based,
but an increasing number of fiber and
textile hybrids are set to appear in the
market, as manufacturing processes are
advancing rapidly.
The move toward greater
integration of two different materials,
textile and electronic, raises the
question of recyclability. The problem
is significant, with an estimated 53.6
million tons of e-waste generated in
2019. At the University of Aarhus in
Denmark, assistant professor Shweta
Agarwala has received a DKK 6 million
award from the Villum Foundation
for a research program to address this
question. The goal is to create novel
electrically functional materials that
are 100 percent biodegradable using a
bio-inspired hydrogel substrate with
adhesive and electrical conductivity.
" We are rapidly developing
solutions for sustainable societies
with renewable energies, smart
manufacturing and green aviation, "
says Agarwala. " But if the supporting
electronics are not degradable, then
the future isn't sustainable. "

 BrightDrop's EV600 is an electric light
commercial vehicle purpose-built for the
delivery of goods and services over long
ranges. Photo: General Motors.

 With charging stations often hard to find
in the U.S., enabling electric vehicles to
travel longer distances per charge is a must.
Replacing injection-molded plastics with
needlepunch and nonwoven composites can
reduce the weight of standard automotive
components by as much as 50 percent.
Photo: Vlad Tchompalov on Unsplash.

Want more? We have it!
Search " automotive textiles " at
www.SpecialtyFabricsReview.com

Debra Cobb is a freelance writer with extensive
experience in the textiles industry.
Dr. Marie O'Mahony is an industry consultant, author
and academic. She is a visiting professor at the Royal
College of Art (RCA), London.

www.SpecialtyFabricsReview.com

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Specialty Fabrics Review May 2021

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