In mobility today, lightweighting is an important theme. The reason is not hard to find: the lighter the material, the further a vehicle can travel on a single tank of gas or battery charge. In the search for lightweight and sustainable materials, the automotive industry is turning to increasingly innovative solutions.
For its newest LQ electric concept car, Toyota was looking for a particularly lightweight polyurethane composite material. Its car component manufacturer, Toyota Boshoku Corporation, collaborated with Covestro's Innovation Centre in Japan on the joint development of a new polyurethane composite concept - a solution based on a low-density polyurethane foam reinforced with kenaf fibres. The new material is a good example of how Covestro is focussing on using alternative raw materials and establishing a circular economy, noted Hiroaki Ido, head of Polyurethanes Application Development for Transportation at the Innovation Centre.
The material is based on a combination of Covestro's Baypreg F NF technology and Toyota Boshoku's expertise in using kenaf fibres and is characterised by a very low area density of less than 1 kg/m2 and high strength. Made from the new natural fibre-reinforced polyurethane composite, the door trim on the LQ concept car is claimed to be 30% lighter than when made from conventional material.
Kenaf is a member of the hibiscus family and grows in, among other places, South East Asia, Bangladesh, India and Africa. The fibre is obtained from bast fibres of the kenaf plant. A cost-effective raw material with good mechanical properties, the plant fibre is increasingly attracting attention as an alternative raw material with potential for the automotive industry. “Our joint development makes an important contribution to the design of particularly lightweight and sustainable vehicles,” says Hiroaki Ido, Head of Polyurethanes Application Development for Transportation at Covestro's Japanese Innovation Centre.