Jun 19, 2017  Düsseldorf / Germany

Lightweight construction in the automotive industry

The glue that holds it all together

Road traffic accounted for 17 percent of all carbon emissions in Germany in 2014. That’s why improving the environmental footprint of cars is an important goal – all the more so because the limits set by the EU are going to become stricter in 2020. After that, regular gas engines which emit 180 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometre will no longer be accepted in new vehicles. The new limit will be 95 grams. How can Henkel help car manufacturers meet this target?

Car manufacturers are turning to lightweight construction to meet the new emissions targets, because lighter cars consume less energy. For example, a medium-sized car like the Volkswagen Golf weighs 1.4 tons. The use of modern adhesives and sealants can already reduce that weight by at least 15 percent and thereby contribute to lowering the car’s carbon emissions – and it can do so without affecting quality in the slightest. The highly effective solutions developed by Henkel Adhesive Technologies are replacing traditional joining techniques, including:

  • Brazing and soldering
  • Welding
  • Screwing

In addition, the multi-material structures and fiber-reinforced composites that are essential to lightweight construction can only be joined together securely with glue.

Demand for greener cars is growing

Lightweight construction has become a permanent fixture in the automotive industry. Modern cars are already 30-percent made up of lightweight components (McKinsey), a figure which highlights the importance of the weight-saving trend. However, the potential for reducing a car’s weight is far from being fully tapped. According to industry experts, the share of lightweight construction technologies in car manufacturing should increase from 30 to 70 percent by 2030. It is clear, therefore, that adhesive technology is key to automotive lightweight construction and makes the manufacturing of modern cars possible in the first place.

The Asian growth market

Growth in this sector is expected to be particularly strong in the Asia-Pacific region, because the automotive industry there is already placing a stronger focus on light-weight materials. China is set to become the primary market for lightweight cars, with production due to increase by 30 percent by 2025. By comparison, global market growth is forecast to be 15 percent in the same period.

Cost-saving glue

Windshields are a great example of cooperation with car manufacturers: To improve their recycling and make it easier to repair and replace them, the glue has to be reversibly soluble. Thanks to Henkel adhesives, more than 2 million windshields can currently be replaced each year.

With so much potential attributed to glue, a layperson may wonder which parts of a car can actually be glued together, and which ones cannot. The main components glue can replace are weld seams and screws: This doesn’t just reduce the car’s weight, but also its production cost. Glue even has the added benefit of improving performance and stability. This has already been shown with:

  • Windshields
  • Gear wheels
  • Bumpers
  • Dashboards
  • Crossmembers in the frame

Adhesive solutions to every problem

Be it from consumers, policymakers or e-mobility needs – the pressure on the automotive industry to build lighter, greener cars is increasing. The lightweight construction trend has the potential to enable huge savings thanks to the flexibility of adhesive technologies. The glues used are adapted to manufacturers’ requirements regarding protection, performance and energy-saving potential.

LASDs drive lightweight construction

Liquid applied sound deadeners, which are primarily used in floor assemblies, doors and roofs, also enable light-weight construction. As their name suggests, these LASDs regulate the acoustics inside a car and replace the traditional bitumen insulation mats. They are viable in series production because the application process can be automated. This lowers production costs. LASDs are sprayed on with extreme precision, eliminating the need for trimming or manual insertion. A car’s weight can be reduced by 20 percent with LASDs, which positively affects the vehicle’s environmental footprint.
This technology will be integrated in the future BMW 3 Series, and other models and car manufacturers are set to follow suit.

Robots automatically spray LASD on the car body parts during the production process. The substance reduces vibrations and thereby limits noise propagation inside the car.

Future fields of application

The goal is to save precious kilograms wherever possible. Several examples show that car manufacturers are constantly rethinking individual car body parts and looking for even more efficient solutions. Science also benefits from this. It can’t reinvent the wheel, but it can modulate the configuration of its components.


You can find more innovative projects in car manufacturing here or take a tour through the Composite Lab in the video here

Loctite 5189 used at Ford

In the field of protection and performance, for example, Henkel and car manufacturer Ford successfully worked together to develop an innovative sealant for heavy-duty structural connections in engines. It is particularly important that liquids such as motor oil do not leak from an engine. The blow-out test serves to check that a joint’s impermeability remains intact: Loctite 5189 passed it with flying colors. The sealant has been used in many Ford engines ever since, and has also led to significant cost savings in the production process. Thanks to this flexible and resistant glue, the engines no longer have to be reworked manually.

Lightweight construction is the next megatrend


90 percent of all lightweight
construction materials are used
in the automotive industry.


Adhesive technologies can
reduce the weight of a
modern car by about 15 percent.


A modern car typically
contains 15 kilograms
of Henkel glue.


Production of lightweight cars is
set to increase by 30 percent
in China by 2025.
This would make China
the primary market
for lightweight vehicles.


Growth of lightweight vehicles
is forecast to be 15 percent
on the global market.

Follow the glue trail: The use of adhesive technologies in modern cars

With a 90-percent market share, the automotive industry is the main user of light-weight materials and construction technology. The following video shows where lightweight designs and glues are already being used (and where there is still development potential).