Wood to replace steel in automotive manufacturing – a viable but distant future

Adamant in making cars lighter yet stronger, global automotive manufacturers are turning to what seems to be an unlikely and unfathomable alternative to steel: Wood.

Cellulose nanofibres, a material made of wood pulp is seen as a viable alternative in the long term. Weighing just one-fifth of steel but five times stronger it however, faces competition from carbon-based materials and is far from being commercially-viable.

As manufacturers move towards production of electric cars, weight reduction will be essential as with less weight there will lesser batteries needed to power the car – and fewer batteries mean reduced cost.

Credit: NHK World / japanbullet.com

As reported by CNBC, researchers at Kyoto University, Denso (one of Toyota’s biggest supplier of components) and DaikyoNishikawa are all working with cellulose nanofibre-incorporated plastic materials. The potential application of cellulose nanofibres has been enabled by the “Kyoto Process” – a method that can see production cost slashed to one-fifth.

Similarly, it was also claimed that Kyoto University Professor Hiroaki Yano reportedly told Reuters in an interview that it is the lowest-cost, high performance application of cellulose nanofibres hence the focus on its use in automotive and even aircraft parts.

The university is currently in the process of developing a prototype vehicle, along with auto parts suppliers, using the said material and due for completion by 2020.

Source/Cover Photo: CNBC


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