Autos increase use of bio-chems

Toyota and Ford are neck-to-neck (or maybe it should be hood-to-hood) in adopting renewable-based materials and chemicals for their automobiles.

Ford announced that it has teamed up with Recycled Polymeric Materials (RPM) for the use of gaskets and seals made from 25% post-consumer particulate from recycled tires and 17% soybean-based materials on Ford’s 2011 model vehicles such as F-150, Escape, Mustang, Focus and Fiesta.

More than 2.2m pounds of rubber from recycled tires has been made into the RPM seals and gaskets while 150,000 pounds of soy has been used to create the materials, according to Ford. The company had already been using soy foam seat cushions, wheat straw-filled plastic, recycled resins for underbody systems, recycled yarns on cover seats and natural-fiber plastic for interior components.

Last year, Ford biomaterial researchers filed a patent for soy oil-based rubber that can be used in automotive parts such as deflector shields and baffles, radiator deflector shields, cupholder inserts and floor mats. The researchers found that using soy materials as a 25% replacement for petroleum oil-based carbon black more than doubled rubber’s stretchability. The rubber research, which was funded in part by grants from the United Soybean Board, included the use of soy fillers as well as soy oils.

“According to the International Rubber Study Group, the automotive sector accounts for more than 50% of worldwide rubber consumption, which exceeded 22m tonnes in 2008,” said Ford. Automotive rubber use is expected to rise more than 4% through 2013.”

As for Toyota, the company said its new hybrid Prius a (Prius alpha) now features interior parts made with DuPont’s Sorona EP thermoplastics which contains between 20% and 37% sugar-based materials. The biobased parts – developed in collaboration with DuPont Kabushiki Kaisha, Toyota Motor, Kojima Press Industry and Howa Plastics – are used on the instrument panel air conditioning system outlet.

DuPont compares its Sorona EP to petroleum-based, high performance PBT (polybutylene terephthalate).

In an automotive related news, Honda said ten of its 14 North American manufacturing facilities have achieved zero waste-to-landfill status. Examples of its waste reduction initiatives include reuse of leftover sand from aluminum and ferrous metal casting operations; reducing steel scraps; using a closed-loop system for recycling aluminum scrap; eliminating cafeteria waste through composting, recycling and energy recovery; and recycling plastics. 

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