Glazing as a competitive edge
“Automotive glazing provides superior appearance, high performance, and great value. It incorporates stylish good looks, with protection and comfort. Automotive glazing innovation aims at enhancing safety, security, and consumer comfort. The safety feature enables vehicle to absorb some of energy from the impact. Moreover, after an impact the resulting glass fragments inclined to remain attached to the plastic inter-layer, diminishing the hazards of sharp projectiles during an accident,” says Grand View Research in a report entitled “The Global Automotive Glazing Market Analysis, Market Size, Application Analysis, Regional Outlook, Competitive Strategies And Forecasts, 2015 To 2022”.
There are already discernible trends: “Escalating demand to meet automobile manufacturers' and end-user needs from comfort, safety and security perspective is expected to be the key force driving the global automotive glazing market growth over the forecast period. The need to comply with several regulations pertaining to automotive industry may also spur automotive glazing market demand. Products that provide best possible technological solutions with basic functionalities are expected to significantly drive the market over the next few years,” says the report.
“The use of smart glass in the automotive sector is driven by factors that are central to the automotive industry. More specifically, the revenue potential for specific smart glass strategies in automobiles and trucks should be appraised against four criteria: safety, comfort, fuel economy, and design/ style,” predicts a 2014 report “Market Trends: Smart Auto Glass Continues Growth” by NanoMarkets.
“There is nothing new about these factors. They have not changed since the earliest days of the automobile industry, although what has changed is the degree that some of these factors are controlled by legislation. In addition, smart glass is only one of numerous technologies that will help achieve the necessary goals required for each of the factors,” says the report.
One company which has been supplying glass to the auto industry for more than 80 years, and which is a leading automotive glazing innovator is Saint-Gobain Sekurit. The French group has been identified as one of the hundred most innovative companies in the world for six consecutive years by Clarivate Analytics. Some two-thirds of the company’s investment in research and development is focused on innovative materials.
In 2014 the automotive world was introduced to SGS ClimaCoat at the launch of the new Passat during the Paris Motor Show. The 2014 Passat was almost entirely glazed by Saint-Gobain Sekurit – which started providing glazing for the Passat in 1973. The SGS ClimaCoat windscreen can be heated in winter, and reflects heat in summer to provide optimal thermal comfort and lower fuel consumption. ClimaCoat was developed jointly by Saint-Gobain Sekurit and Volkswagen over a period of four years.
There are two approaches to heating windshields. One diffuses heat through a network of microscopic electric filaments embedded in the laminated material between two layers of glass. The second – which is the solution developed by Saint-Gobain for ClimaCoat – uses a conductive layer that is applied to the whole surface of the glass. The advantage is that there are no wires however fine – in the field of vision. The coating cannot be seen by the naked eye.
In winter the heating system is used to de-mist and de-ice quickly, while preventing the windshield from re-icing or misting up. In summer, ClimaCoat keeps the interior cool by reflecting most of the infra-red rays. This natural regulation of the heat build-up in the vehicle makes for more comfortable travel for passengers while protecting the trim. Fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions are reduced because there is less reliance on air conditioning. This helps OEMs to meet the new standards being introduced in the United States and Europe which are designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve fuel savings by decreasing the use of air conditioning in vehicles.
ClimaCoat is also well suited to electric vehicles, where the glazing is helping to increase range while ensuring that the occupants stay comfortable. Air conditioners are major users of power and any reduction in the need for cooling is translated into more miles per charge. Thanks to the heating/cooling function, this anti-solar glazing reduces the use of air conditioning by up to 30%, according to the company. In addition, the new European driving cycle test proved that in summer, the ClimaCoat windshield can improve driving range by 3%, while inside the cabin the air temperature is 10° C less than a car with a standard windshield.
In winter, the de-icing time is three times faster than with a non-heated windshield, according to Saint-Gobain. As a result a number of OEMs are increasingly specifying ClimaCoat for both electric and conventionally powered vehicles. Car manufacturers such as Volkswagen, AUDI, Porsche, Mercedes and Skoda now all reportedly have models equipped with ClimaCoat windshields. A number of new models introduced during 2017 are also expected to have ClimaCoat windshields.
GLAZING FOR AUTONOMOUS CARS
This is an incredible opportunity generating an unlimited need for innovation in our market. Saint-Gobain Sekurit, a leader in automotive glazing today, is clearly set on playing a strong role in these new segments, with a focus on creating value for both end-consumers and car manufacturers ready to sustainably support this transformation.
An autonomous car will be an ultra-connected car capable of receiving loads of information and offering infotainment as well. This allows us to think that the 4 to 5 m2 of glazing present on a vehicle will be of great use.
Switching from current cars to autonomous cars will not happen overnight. The new functionalities expected will imply fundamental changes in the vehicle’s design, and it will take some time before these become operational and fully accepted by end-users.
“Glazing is not just a protective shield”
A more thoughtful transition is to imagine, in the shorter term, semi-autonomous cars where glazing will no longer be limited to the role of protective shield. In such a context, displays could be developed for a number of purposes.
For example, safety requirements will enhance the Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS) sending visual warnings through the glazing that can be seen by drivers and are, more generally, visible from different angles in the vehicle. To do this, the current defined display area will have to be enlarged in order to provide regular information related to the semi-autonomous ride, starting for instance from the lower part of the windshield, then rising to the center and even the upper part.
“Unlimited possibilities for privacy, design and connectivity”
In a context where driving is no longer necessary and the car becomes a living space, connecting it to its external environment will be vital to take the car to its destination and entertain its passengers.
In fact, glass could be used for displaying all sorts of information and entertainment. Passengers will be able to lighten or darken the surface for different purposes. Hence switchable glazing technologies are expected to be widely used for privacy and screen display applications.
Changes in design and ergonomics will also be necessary. For sure, the autonomous car will need a lot of sensors, cameras and antennas to detect the environment and ensure a safe ride. Here also, glazing will play a crucial part as a vision provider to these devices and a full plug-and-play system, as the latter will be directly embedded into the glass. This will ensure both good vision and good traffic recognition.
Car-to-car and car-to-street connections, key requirements for new mobility solutions such as car sharing or localization, could be facilitated by embedding displays into the glazing. Indeed, we could easily imagine that connections between cars will make information sharing between passengers of different vehicles easier, and thus facilitate car-pooling by harmonizing the journey, gathering passengers together, etc.
“Maximum Comfort sensation, just like at home”
Glazing has always played a key role in terms of passenger comfort and well-being. Today, Saint-Gobain Sekurit solutions already make a strong contribution to interior comfort, particularly when it comes to heat and acoustics. However, in self-driving cars, the expectations regarding comfort will be greater. People will be more demanding; they will want more transparency, as well as the chance, at times, to retreat into their cosy cocoon. I mean, what’s the point of not driving if you can’t enjoy the view!
Here, the desire for comfort will be the same as feeling at home. Especially as passengers will spend their time in cars in different ways; they will do other activities such as working or relaxing. Glazing will be an intuitive and easy-to-use facilitator.
Major changes in the automotive industry are expected once self-driving cars come onto the market. With design and safety modifications offering more possibilities to the vehicle’s occupants, glazing parts will definitely play a much richer role than they do today.
In fact, glass anywhere on the vehicle could have multiple functions; new features that do not exist today on regular cars but will be crucial in autonomous mobility to enhance the driving experience. The only limit we have is our imagination.
ClimaCoat: The highest visibility in any weather conditions
As a reference supplier of innovative, integrated glazing systems in the mobility market, Saint-Gobain Sekurit commitment to innovation is to provide everyday well-being and respond to the demands of the automotive industry development in terms of evolution, uses and regulations.
Find in the April issue of Automotive News Europe, a full article that describes all the different properties of the ClimaCoat, a windshield that allows the highest visibility in any weather conditions.
Click here to discover this innovative solution