According to the latest crime figures gathered by British Home Office , ‘theft of’ and ‘theft from’ vehicles accounts for roughly 20% of all recorded crime – around one million a year. Of those car thieves that stole items from the car, 46% smashed the window to gain entry.

It’s a grim picture in the US, too. More than 1.8m vehicles are broken into in ‘smash and grab’ raids. There has been some debate that it is pointless to invest in improved locking system mechanisms when the door glazing can be broken relatively easily. The objective of a laminated auto side glazing, therefore, is to enhance vehicle security by increasing the amount of time and effort to smash the window.

A new association to support the promotion of new security and safety glass systems in side and rear vehicle windows and sunroofs was formed in September 1999. The Enhanced Glass Automotive Association was formed by the DuPont Glass Laminating Products and Solutia Inc. The organisation comprises carmakers and glass manufacturers working to inform the automotive industry and public about enhanced protective glass (EPG).

Figure 1 – EPG construction

Headquartered in St Louis, Solutia is the world’s largest producer of the PVB (polyvinyl butyral) plastic interlayer that is used to manufacture laminated windscreen glass. EPG consists of PVB film composite that is factory laminated to heat strengthened or tempered glass. The partners claim that EPG deters ‘smash and grab’ theft by increasing the time it takes to break a side window. They claim it takes around 30 seconds to break through a laminated window compared to just two seconds to smash a conventional tempered glass construction.

Figure 2 – Keep him out

EPG side glass features on the Audi A6 and A8, BMW X5, Lexus LS430, Mercedes-Benz S Class, Peugeot 206 and Peugeot 607. Volvo is also offering side windows made form EPG as an option on all S60, S80 and V70 models. Added security is one of the main reasons why laminated side glass in used on some European luxury cars.

Figure 3 – BMW X5 features EPG

Benefits of laminating the side glass are that it reduces the risk of thieves or vandals breaking in. It also makes it less likely that drivers will be thrown from their vehicles during an accident and it reduces noise inside the car-by around four decibels. There are other benefits. Laminating side glass allows carmakers to incorporate de-icing technologies and heat resistant coatings just as they do in front and rear windscreens. Laminated glass also improves drive comfort, blocking 95% of ultraviolet rays.

Figure 4 – Solar protection

With an optional infrared reflecting layer, EPG can also reduce solar energy transmission by up to 60% cutting cabin temperature by as much as 20°C. While on the move, it helps reduce so-called ‘cold-shoulder’-the draft experienced from the driver side window. For the carmaker, EPG weighs 10% less than standard tempered glass. The downside is cost. Laminated costs around three to four times more than tempered glass. In the UK, Volvo offers laminated side windows on the S60 saloon as an option for £279.

Figure 5 – EPG offers acoustical benefits

Figure 6 – You never know what’s round the corner

Figure 7 – EPG helps keep the heat out

In a tele-conference with three experts from Solutia, we discovered that Solutia are on the brink of offering tinted PVB film in ‘any colour you want’. On 14th June 2001, Just-auto interviewed Jay Pyper, manager, automotive market development based in Washington, Michel van Russelt, sales and marketing manager based in Brussels and Greg Wilson, Solutia’s PR manager responsible for EPG

What is driving each of the OEMs to adopt EPG?

Michel van Russelt: It varies from one OEM to the other. Some are more interested in the enhanced comfort features that EPG can offer, whereas others are keen on the safety and security aspects.

But the cost of EPG is still an issue, isn’t it?

Michel van Russelt: Yes, because EPG is more expensive to produce than tempered glass. We are not supplying the glass to the carmaker, but through the glassmaker. I would prefer to say that in terms of the price to the consumer, it would add around Euro500 to the price of the car.

But glass is glass to most consumers.

Michel van Russelt: That is one of the problems. As glass is transparent, you can’t see a difference. But some of the OEMs are so convinced by EPG that they have started to put it on a range of new platforms. Volvo, for example, fit EPG on their top-of-the-range S80, and now they are planning to offer EPG on every new platform from hereon.

I guess you have to educate the car dealers to communicate the benefits of EPG to the end user?

Michel van Russelt: Over the last couple of years, we found that the level of knowledge about our product at the dealership level was quite low. As a result, we have now started to work with the OEMs to train their dealerships about the benefits of the product. We are working with them to put together a training package that will last about 15 minutes that could become available through an intranet or a CD ROM package. We think the consumer will respond positively to the cost of EPG provided it is included as standard equipment or if it is an option that is sold effectively at the dealership.

Have you made any inroads in the Japanese market?

Michel van Russelt: There is currently no usage of EPG in Japan, mainly because the Japanese carmakers are extremely cost conscious for the time being. They are really very critical about anything that adds cost to their cars.

But with the US market shifting into a lower gear, how can you sell a premium priced technology such as EPG to the US carmakers?

Jay Pyper: I think this comes back to what does the OEM want? Right now, carmakers are looking at how to make their cars competitive in the world market place but at a reasonable cost. Although the benefits of our technology are obvious to the consumer, there are some that are transparent, such as its contribution to improved NVH and reduced weight. EPG is lighter than tempered glass.

Is cost the only resistance to your technology?

Michel van Russelt: A few years ago, one of the issues was the availability of thinner configuration. While the first generation of EPG was 5mm thick, most vehicle platforms at the time used 4mm glass thickness. Since then, the glass companies have been working hard to improve the technology and supply EPG in a 4mm thickness. The only reason now why people would be put off is still cost. But cost is an element that you need to weigh up against the benefits. In some cases, it is cheaper for the carmakers to put EPG on a car for the acoustical benefits. Otherwise, they would have to spend a lot of money improving other parts of the acoustical system.

What are your ambitions for EPG in terms of fitment to cars in Europe and North America over the next few years?

Michel van Russelt: We expect EPG to be featured on around 50 vehicle models worldwide by 2004, up from around 10 last year. By 2004, it will be primarily segment D and E cars. However, we have some indications in the C segment in the pipeline.

Jay Pyper: A notable exception is the GM Chevy Impala. We worked with PPG as the laminator. Now, with the GM Impala Police cruiser, they offer EPG in the four side doors.

Greg Wilson: We’ve heard that the Las Vegas Police department wrecks one car per day! Likewise, there is a lot more vandalism done to police cars. It’s not that they want to break in and steal something, it’s just that some folks in some inner cities tend to show great antagonism towards the police. We’ve heard that an Impala may cost around $17,000 but typically loaded up with $17,000 worth of police equipment. So, there is as much incentive to protect what is in the vehicle as the vehicle itself.

What colours and designs might be available for auto glazing in the future?

Michel van Russelt: We currently supply PVB as a transparent interlayer, but we can also supply it as a tinted interlayer and in any colour you want. We are in discussion with a number of designers to offer them a palette of colours to offer consumers. There are a lot of possibilities in privacy glazing. We can supply tinted PVB for sunroof applications, too. The Peugeot 206, for example, is offered with a green tinted sunroof. We are working with other OEMs to come up with other colours. Grey is popular right now because of its neutrality..

Jay Pyper: The big problem with traditional methods of coloured glazing is still processing costs. If you want to make seven different colours of glass, the cost of changing from one run of glass to the next means that you can have your whole kiln down for a weekend, just to change the colouring. Using PVB, however, it can take a matter of hours.

When can we see tinted glass using PVB?

Jay Pyper: I would expect within 2 – 3 years, you’ll see tinted vehicles on the road. In the US, the Mack truck has it. The Peugeot has it in the roof. I think that in five years time, we can expect to see more risqué colours out there.

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