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Japanese Company Announces to Make Auto parts with Wood

TOKYO: With automotive companies seeking more ways to reduce their carbon footprint, most are turning towards low emission and electric vehicles. But in Japan, a very different solution is being researched – one which has resulted in a concept supercar made from wood-based materials.

The car, of course, isn’t actually made from solid wood – but is in fact crafted from plant-based cellulose nanofibers (CNF) which are developed from condensed wood pulp that has been boiled in chemicals to remove lignin and hemicellulose.

The result is an ultra-strong, lightweight material – more than five times the strength of steel and 1/5th of the weight. Manufacturers have found ways to injection mould CNF as a resin-reinforced slurry into complex shapes, allowing it to be used to build vehicles. 

The Japanese Ministry of the Environment along with Kyoto University is heading up a consortium of 22 research institutes, companies and universities to maximise the potential for implementing CNF as a manufacturing alternative. This includes the project which built the gull-winged supercar with CNF throughout the bodywork and interior.

As well as providing a sustainable, plant-based manufacturing material, the lighter weight means less carbon being emitted when the car is driven.

The car was showcased at the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show, though no details have been released about the car’s powertrain yet.

The team are continuing to test the CNF car parts to ensure they meet materials specifications and last over the long term, as well as determining whether production can be made cheap enough for mass production.