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Nissan slathers CUVs in SPF500 sun protection

Multi-layer paint endures the most extreme temperatures in the world

Published: July 19, 2016, 10:00 PM
Updated: July 26, 2016, 1:20 PM

Nissan Juke at the beach

With the advancement in climate change, people are starting to take notice of the effect of the sun’s rays on even protected skin, but little notice is paid to how much UV protection is needed for car bodies.

Skincare experts agree that people shouldn’t venture out into today’s sun without sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 50. Now, Nissan has revealed that its crossover vehicles’ paint has the equivalent protection of SPF 500.

“Just like human skin, car paint is affected by intense UV rays that are capable of breaking down a surface, so we test for durability to ensure lasting product quality,” said Dean Gillett, an environmental test engineer at Nissan.

Nissan’s crossover lineup is protected with high-quality, multi-layer paint tested to endure the most extreme temperatures in the world, and when not in direct sunlight, they’re in the lab having their exterior panels exposed to 500 watts of ultraviolet light per square metre (the equivalent of 10 times that of natural direct sunlight). Following the logic, if human skin is adequately protected by SPF50, then the exterior panels must have an SPF rating of 500. It doesn’t quite work that way but it’s as suitable a marketing position as any.

Nissan’s new £1.34-million (about $2.3 million Canadian) environmental test chamber at Cranfield, England’s European Technical Centre allows engineers to test at extremes that can’t be found in the real world, and can speed up sun exposure wear of years over the course of weeks. The ideal is to insure the vehicles’ exterior paint lasts a lifetime.

The lights at the facility emit 92,000 watts of intense heat. You know how hot a 40-watt bulb feels? Imagine 2,300 of them beating down on you. The heat quickly raises interior temperature to 120 Celsius, or about 2.5 times warmer than the hottest recorded outdoor temperature. And although you’d have to drive a while to get to the coldest recorded temperature in the world (−89.2 Celsius in Antarctica), the chamber can take the temperature down to -50 considerably more quickly.

Nissan says that means that European customers can confidently use their crossovers from the beaches of the Mediterranean through to the fjords of Norway and every bit of land in between and know that the materials will last over the vehicles’ lifetimes.

However, it should be noted that not all components will work well under all conditions.

“A good example is the gas struts which hold the tailgate open,” explains Dean. “They’re different around the world because the gas in the cylinder is temperature sensitive.”