FAURECIA URBAN LIFTGATE CONCEPT MOVES AUTOMOTIVE DESIGN AND FUNCTIONALITY FORWARD
In the half century since the demise of tail fins and sloping muscle cars, distinctive vehicles have earned acclaim for their front-end styling and functionality much more often than for their rear ends. That may change very soon, with the introduction of a new rear-end concept from Faurecia. The Faurecia Urban Liftgate Demonstrator combines new materials, new painting techniques, new ways to manage lighting and new methods of customizing rear markings into a whole new way of thinking about the backs of vehicles from roof to trunk. The object of this redesign is to show that innovation can be applied to much more than the liftgate, which has been a primary focal point in recent years. Rather, Faurecia integrates smart functions with décor to create a new level of distinctive appeal.
A SLIDING COMPOSITE LIFTGATE
The reinvention of the rear end indeed begins with the liftgate. Faurecia introduces a new smart-opening system that allows the top of the composite liftgate to slide over the vehicle roof at the push of a button. Its advantage is that a motorist can reach the liftgate handle to close it much more easily than with traditional hinged rear gates that lift straight up. Also, with a 25cm lower clearance than a traditional liftgate, the lower profile of the open liftgate allows it to avoid collisions with low roofs in underground parking and the tops of open garage doors. Equally, the smart sliding kinematics enable a gain of 18cm of clearance behind the rear of the car, easing the liftgate opening in tight parallel parking. The purpose of this sliding-door concept is to illustrate a novel way in which kinematics can be integrated into rear door systems.
In addition, the liftgate offers two different opening levels, a full open position where the liftgate slides over the roof and a half-open position for vehicles bearing a roof storage box.
The rear window in the tailgate is composed of polycarbonate material, rather than glass, to allow for more design freedom for sculptural glazing. It is formed through an injection compression process, followed by a primer and clear coat for protection against UV rays and weathering. A specific plasma treatment makes the glazing scratch resistant.
COMPOSITE AND LIGNEOS TRUNK
The spare wheel tray of the concept’s trunk is fashioned from a composite thermoplastic reinforced with glass fiber. Faurecia manufactures this material using thermostamping techniques. The polyamide-based composite meets all crash-test requirements and is recyclable. The technology reduces weight compared with traditional steel solutions.
The floor of the trunk is created with Faurecia’s patented Ligneos technology. Ligneos offers the look and feel of a natural material at a competitive price and allows the use of real wood on large areas with complex shapes. The thin Ligneos sheet is flexible and retains all the grain and pores of the natural wood from which it is made. Its weight is about 20 percent less than that of traditional wood paneling. Faurecia today offers more than 40 varieties of Ligneos wood in multiple shades in matte, lacquer and textured finishes for use in automotive interiors.
VISIBLE FLAX COMPOSITE ROOF
In recent years, designers have explored options for using expensive carbon-resin composites to create structural components of vehicles, but Faurecia is introducing a new type of composite made of natural flax fibers instead of carbon. Much more sustainable and economical, the flax-resin composite was used to create the roof of the Urban Liftgate demonstrator. The material is then finished with a metal-tinted clear coat to add some reflection. From a very short distance, the roof harmonizes perfectly with the rest of the car.
TEXTURED PAINT AND SPRAY METALLIZATION
The lower portion of the Urban Liftgate concept, below the bumper, is designed with a textured effect that imparts a feel similar to that of sharkskin, an unusual finish achieved totally through a new painting technique. Its varnish coat contains microbeads that produce a granulated effect. It is a technique that Faurecia was the first to industrialize on plastic parts, when it created a textured surface for the bumpers of the Peugeot 208 facelift (2015) in ice grey and ice silver shades.
Besides its styling advantages, the texturing helps protect the varnish from micro-scratches and better sustain frequent high-pressure water car washing.
In the area beneath the rear glazing (window) and in the areas surrounding the rear air-flow ducts, Faurecia has sprayed on a metallized paint that replaces expensive chrome while creating a shiny chrome appearance. To achieve this look, Faurecia first applies a primer. Then it sprays two liquid components on the part that produce a chemical reaction, which converts the liquids to a thin, solid-metallic layer with a mirror-like finish. Varnish can be applied atop this layer to add any of a number of colors.
Among the benefits of spray metallization are its exceptional cost-efficiency compared with actual chrome and the large diversity of color options that simply cannot be attained with chrome itself. The process is much more environmentally friendly than working with chrome, as well. It costs 5 to 20 percent less than chrome electroplating and weights 10 to 20 percent less than chrome.
Yet another important advantage is that the sprayed metallic finish can be backlighted, unlike the normal chrome process, because it is applied as a very thin metallic layer.
Textured painting is currently available from Faurecia, and metallized spray is expected to begin appearing on vehicles in 2018.
INVISIBLE THIRD BRAKE LIGHT
Designers have been frustrated by constraints that require a third brake light to be mounted in a rear window or on a spoiler. Faurecia has developed a way to integrate this brake light invisibly into the spoiler along the rear roof line.
The LED lighting module is covered with a rigid, transparent strip of polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) material tinted to match the spoiler. When the light is not activated, the strip blends into the spoiler and cannot be seen. When the brake is applied, the LEDs light the transparent cover from behind with the familiar red glow of a brake light. Thus, the light cover serves as decoration until it needs to function as a warning light.
A similar technique is used with the other two brake lights above the bumper. The areas over the lights remain dark when the car is not braking, covered by translucent mold-in-color panels with high-end translucent metallic paint. When the brake is activated, hidden red lights behind the panels shine through the covers with the familiar intense red glow.
A new lighting function, using a similar hidden-light technique, has been added around decorative air ducts that resemble dual tailpipes. When unlit, the area surrounding the ducts looks like chrome. When the liftgate is raised, however, the area around the ducts illuminates, providing additional tail lights that substitute for those that have been raised into the air with the liftgate.
This invisible lighting system will be offered to vehicle designers early in 2017 for 2019 vehicles.
The Urban Liftgate concept’s textured and metallized paints lend themselves to a novel Faurecia laser engraving methodology. The paint is applied in two colored layers. A laser then is used to cut through the top colored layer, creating a design, words or images. A clear coat is then applied at the end of the process. This technique has been used on the Peugeot 208 to create customized versions of the vehicle. Faurecia envisions automakers incorporating it into stylish cars and trucks with sporty, artistic or even monogrammed designs.
Laser decoration currently is in production, and its applications are anticipated to expand in conjunction with other rear-end innovations.