The Mercedes fuel-filler flap, no longer made of metal, is formed from autobody-grade plastic from BASF. It can be painted at the same time as the rest of the car’s steel body, helping to streamline the manufacturing process.
Photo courtesy of BASF, The Chemical Co., 2011.

Automakers are always looking for ways to reduce vehicle weight and improve fuel economy, but incorporating those changes must fit into the manufacturing process, especially the heating stages. One automaker found a winning combination with a plastic fuel filler flap.

Mercedes’ current E-class T-model has an especially large fuel-filler flap because it is intended to accommodate variable fueling options. The automaker converted the flap’s metal construction to Ultramid TOP 4000, a mineral-filled semi-aromatic polyamide (PA 6/6T) made by BASF, Florham Park, N.J. The conductive engineering resin offers greater stiffness and dimensional stability.

According to the company, the conductive material is suitable for on-line painting, which means it can, without additional effort or costs, withstand the various baths and painting operations, including drying, to which the rest of the autobody is subjected. Therefore, the gas flap now can be painted at the same time as the rest of the car’s steel body using classic automotive coating techniques. According to BASF, the material represents one more step toward a lightweight plastic automobile body.