The international push among automakers to make ever lighter vehicles is leading some vehicle providers in Japan to rely on exactly what seems a not likely alternative to steel: wood.
Japanese researchers and car part makers say a product made from wood pulp weighs simply one fifth of steel and can be 5 times more powerful.
The product, cellulose nanofibres, could end up being a practical option to steel in the years ahead, they say, although it deals with competitors from carbon-based materials, and stays a long way from being commercially practical.
Lowering the weight of a car will be important as producers move to bring electric vehicles into the mainstream. Batteries are a pricey but vital part, so a decrease in car weight will indicate fewer batteries will be required to power the vehicle, saving money on expenses.
“Lightweighting is a consistent issue for us,” stated Masanori Matsushiro, a project manager supervising body model at Toyota.
“However we likewise need to deal with the problem of high production expenses before we see an increased use of brand-new, lighter-weight materials in mass-volume automobiles.”
Researchers at Kyoto University and significant parts providers such as Denso, Toyota’s most significant supplier, and DaikyoNishikawa, are dealing with plastics integrated with cellulose nanofibres – made by breaking down wood pulp fibers into a number of hundredths of a micron (one thousandth of a millimetre).
Cellulose nanofibres have been used in a range of products varying from ink to transparent displays, however their prospective usage in cars has been allowed by the “Kyoto Process”, under which chemically dealt with wood fibers are kneaded into plastics while at the same time broken down into nanofibres, slashing the price of production to roughly one-fifth that of other procedures.
“This is the lowest-cost, highest-performance application for cellulose nanofibres, and that’s why we’re focusing on its use in auto and airplane parts,” Kyoto University Professor Hiroaki Yano, who is heading the research study, informed Reuters in an interview.
The university, in addition to vehicle parts suppliers, are presently developing a model car using cellulose nanofibre-based parts to be finished in 2020.