Gluing a car together might seem like a dangerous way to reduce weight, but it turns out that the practice of using advanced adhesives to construct vehicles is not so new.
The Boeing Dreamliner airplanes have used a kind of super-superglue since 2009. The epoxy resin and carbon fiber-infused plastic used to make the airplane’s shell are two of the reasons why these aircraft have done so well commercially. They require less maintenance and, because they’re lighter, less fuel.
Here’s how it works: carbon fiber is treated at a very high heat and infused with epoxy resin. This creates a composite plastic that is tough and light. The end result of this process is something that looks a lot like black duct tape. Layers of this tape are laid on top of each other by a robot, often wrapped around a molding, until they’ve formed an aircraft component. Then, the new part is popped into an autoclave to harden further.
Now, General Motors is taking this idea and applying it to their cars. Though it’s unclear if GM is using the exact same method as the Boeing Dreamliners, making use of intense glue and lighter materials creates a similar result. The toughness of the materials means that on their newest Acadia, GM cut down slightly on the amount of steel used in the cars construction. Though the difference in size may seem tiny (the new steel is about one human hair’s width thinner than the old parts), it adds up to a huge difference in weight. The new Acadia is a full 700 pounds lighter than the previous version. This unburdening also means that the car is significantly more efficient. The new version gets 23 miles per gallon of gas, up from 18 miles per gallon before. It seems this superglue is nothing to sniff at.