Exel to provide weight-saving composite profiles for Chinese electric buses

Finnish composite manufacturer Exel Composites has secured a new project with Chinese automotive manufacturer Foton Bus and Coach Company to supply pultruded glass fiber composite profiles.

Under the agreement, the glass fiber profiles will be manufactured locally in China. This will reduce both the maintenance requirements and the weight of the vehicles, due to the composites’ corrosion resistant and lightweight properties. Additionally, the geometric design flexibility of composites enables wider structural engineering possibilities than traditional metals, such as steel and aluminum.

Foton Bus and Coach Company, a subsidiary of the Chinese BAIC company, manufactures a range of commercial vehicles, including trucks, buses, vans, and construction vehicles. In line with industry trends, Foton has shifted its focus to electric and hydrogen vehicle manufacturing, particularly in the bus and coach sector.

Exel Composites will produce a series of structural composite profiles for many different bus models. These profiles, including fiber reinforced plastic (FRP) side panels, skirt panels, and fake roofs, are manufactured using pultrusion technology with glass fiber composites. These offer greater tensile strength and durability while reducing density by 30%, compared to traditional aluminum profiles.

“Having refined the pultrusion manufacturing process over many decades, we can produce complex geometric profiles that match the strength of traditional aluminum, while being much lighter,” said Kathy Wang, executive VP for industrial solutions business unit at Exel Composites. “At the same time, the finished profile has a smooth surface finish, which eliminates the need for further processing.

“Furthermore, unlike aluminum extrusions, which are limited to 0.3 m in width and require multiple connections for larger panels, our composite profiles can extend up to 1.2 m wide and 12 m long. This ensures structural integrity and solidarity.”