by Bob Beranek
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The Sunday paper this past week featured an article on the Detroit Auto Show and the future of automobiles. It was interesting that they started the article with the very vehicle I talked about last week, The 2015 Ford F-150 aluminum bodied truck. They spoke of the various materials that many of the concept vehicles highlighted, such as, the above mentioned aluminum, magnesium, carbon fiber and high-strength boron steel which gives the vehicle super hardness with equal weight. The thing that was mysteriously absent from the article was the use of glass in the vehicle designs and its importance to fuel savings.

The flavor that I got from the article is the need and desire of automakers to find more fuel efficiency without the loss of power, performance and styling. After all, they have to meet the U.S. government’s mandate to average 54.5 mpg by 2025, not an easy task. The problem has been, to produce such a car the makers would have to give up something to achieve the mileage goal. They either had to make the vehicle small, slow and fuel efficient or big, powerful and appealing, but a gas guzzler. I know, they have been trying to get the formula right for years but the theme of the story I read is that they think they have the right recipe of achieving the government imposed goal and still have a vehicle that will sell.

What does this have to do with automotive glass? Well, if you perused the Internet and saw the concept vehicles offered at the show and opened your eyes to the recent use of glass roofs, you will know that glass plays a big part in the future design of vehicles. The reason for this is what we have known for decades, glass is smoother than a painted surface and the more glass surface is on a vehicle, the less drag it has. This concept has been around since the Ford Taurus was introduced in 1986 but the drastic increase in glass roofs and other glass uses in the designs were thought to be too radical for the marketplace. It wasn’t until the glass roof in the 1996 Porsche Targa that the “radical” idea of a glass roof was tried and proven desirable. Now you can see all glass roofs on many vehicles both domestic and foreign.

What does this mean for the future? I think it’s obvious. Glass is economical, relatively light weight, and it offers aerodynamic properties that make it desirable to use in vehicles of the past, present and the future. There may come new technologies like gorilla glass or heat-strengthen laminated glass, but there will be nothing more practical than glass in automobiles. I can’t wait to see what they will do with it next.