A collaboration between industry and research has developed a car made partly of wood fibres, making it lighter and more carbon-friendly
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Spotted: At this year’s Tokyo Motor Show, the Japanese Ministry for the Environment unveiled a new car made partly of wood. The car’s body and much of its underlying structure are made of plant-based cellulose nanofibre (CNF).
Cellulose nanofiber is around one-fifth the weight of steel but has five times the strength. It is made by chipping and pulping wood, then treating it with chemicals to remove the lignin and hemicellulose. This creates a very lightweight, strong and recyclable material. Using CNF allows manufacturers to remove up to ten per cent of the vehicle’s weight and 2,000 kg (4,400 lbs) of carbon from its lifecycle. The resulting material can be reinforced with resin and moulded to form complex shapes, such as car body parts.
The part-wooden supercar project was a collaboration between Kyoto University, the Ministry of the Environment and a number of industry and educational institutions. However, while the result looks incredibly futuristic, there is little information about what’s under the hood. The vehicle is thought to be powered by a hydrogen fuel cell.
With a top speed of just 12 mph (20 km/h), the CNF vehicle is a proof-of-concept. However, a number of automakers, including Toyota, are determining the usefulness of CNFs in mass production vehicles. The hope is that this first vehicle will pave the way for a lighter, carbon-friendly car manufacturing process.
At Springwise, we are no strangers to the use of innovative materials in reducing carbon emissions. We have recently seen seaweed used to create a reusable and recyclable nappy, and hazardous waste turned into construction materials.