based on Chrysler press releases and an article in Azom
According to Ken Mack, who managed the development of a "Composite Concept Vehicle" (CCV), Chrysler was on the verge of a successful low-cost, light-weight, and durable plastic car in 1998, the fateful year of the Daimler takeover. Using old plastic soda bottles, chopped glass, rubber, and a substance to resist ultraviolet radiation, Mack's group formed a four-piece body that goes on top of a lightweight steel frame. The Impet PET resin used in the body was developed by Ticona, and new moulding technologies allowing large warp-free panels to be made from it.
The car was about 1,200 pounds and could reportedly have been sold for about $6,000 in some emerging markets, thanks to a simple assembly process and the lack of paint. It would be completely recyclable, so that old CCVs could end up being new ones, further reducing costs.
The CCV required about 6.5 hours to build, as opposed to 19 for the Neon, and used four of the largest mouldings ever applied to a car; an adhesive bonded the panels together and to a steel frame which held the powertrain and suspension.
The panels weighed 210 lb, around 400 lb less than conventional steel body panels would have weighed; they were expected to survive 100,000 road miles at full vehicle weight, and passed testing for twice that duration via cyclic load tests (3,600 cycles passed without significant failures; 1,800 cycles represented 100,000 miles). The Impet resin (plastic) had better impact strength and dimensional stability than other thermoplastics, according to its maker, Ticona. It was 15% glass-filled, and cost $1.50 per pound — around 15% of carbon fiber’s cost, and much lower than SMC or SRIM resins. Fill time was 10-15 seconds, part of a 3-minute moulding cycle.
The CCV program was initiated by Bob Lutz, Chrysler’s president, in late 1993. Like the Patriot hybrid racing car, it was the result of collaborations with suppliers. The first CCV to be exhibited by Chrysler was the Pronto. A more advanced model was shown in September in Germany; production was seen as being viable by 2001, but the Daimler takeover ended the project.
The CCV would be sold in countries where bikes and other lightweight transport was the norm, as the Tata Nano eventually was. The two-cylinder air-cooled engine generated 25 hp and got 50 mpg, with a top speed of 70 mph; it took 25 seconds to reach 60 miles per hour.
Crash testing was supposedly satisfactory except for side impacts. Durability was said to be good, with “several test cars” made that “can successfully navigate the rutted back roads in places like Africa and Brazil.”
Plant investment would be about $300 million, roughly one third of that required for normal cars. Warranty costs would be lower due to the lack of paint. The composite itself cost about one third of what ordinary materials would cost. The plant could be about one tenth normal size.
(This car followed the plastic-bodied Plymouth Pronto concept, which also indicated the styling direction that could be taken for the 2000 Plymouth Neon or a later derivative, had the company followed Tom Gale’s plan to “prowlerfy” all Plymouth cars.)
The body had only four parts (traditional bodies are 75-100 parts) and joined with four bolts and adhesive.
The CCV was 18% larger inside than typical 5-passenger compacts. It had four doors, removable rear seats, a soft canvas top, and was designed for right or left hand drive.
Problems included meeting crash tests, doing bodywork so collision damage would be invisible, and long-term durability, and getting people to buy a car with a matte finish.
The resins developed for the CCV were later modified and used in the Dodge ESX2 and Plymouth Pronto Spyder concepts.
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