According to an article written by Robert Dalheim of Woodworking Network on August 17, Japanese car manufacturers are considering substituting wood for steel in order to make vehicles lighter. With wood pulp being 20 percent lighter than the weight of steel and five times as strong, wooden car parts are at the top of Japanese researchers’ considerations for reducing the weight of a vehicle.
As manufacturers move toward churning out electric cars for a mainstream consumer base, reducing the weight of a vehicle will be crucial. Automobile suppliers are hopeful because a reduction in car weight would require fewer batteries, saving costs.
Cellulose nanofibers are currently being used to create various products, such as ink and transparent displays. These fibers are obtained by breaking down wood.
In cars, the chemically treated wood fibers will be kneaded into plastics while simultaneously being broken down into nanofibres, slashing the cost of production to roughly one-fifth that of other processes. This process is referred to as “the Kyoto Process,” named after Japan’s Kyoto University who’s leading the research.
“This is the lowest-cost, highest-performance application for cellulose nanofibers, and that’s why we’re focusing on its use in auto and aircraft parts,” said Hiroaki Yano, professor at Kyoto University who leads the research. Yano’s team is working with several automakers in Japan to complete a prototype car built with cellulose nanofiber parts. They hope to complete it by 2020.
“We’ve been using plastics as a replacement for steel, and we’re hoping that cellulose nanofibers will widen the possibilities toward that goal,” stated Yukihiko Ishino, a spokesman at DaikyoNishikawa, which supplies parts for Toyota and Mazda.
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