Research is being carried out in Japan in order to discover whether a strong material could be potentially manufactured from wood pulp. If the research has positive results, this material could be used as a replacement for steel parts in a range of vehicles. This replacement could take place within ten years.
There is also work being carried out in order to develop plastics that will be able to withstand high temperatures. These plastics are being developed with a view to replacing the metal parts near to the engine. The innovations that are being explored form a part of the wider industry aim to try and make cars lighter. There appears to be a significant push to reduce as much weight in cars as possible at the moment. This weight loss drive is specifically more focused on the vehicles that are more likely to cause higher levels of pollution, such as SUVs or pickup trucks.
Lighter and slimmer cars consume a lower amount of fuel. The US Department of Energy has said that by reducing a vehicle’s weight by 10% can improve the fuel economy by as much as 8%. Manufacturers are also aiming to make the electric models as light as possible in order to make sure that their end users can travel further in a single charge. The lighter vehicles will then reduce the anxiety about the range of the vehicles that are faced by car owners.
With research and innovation working to make vehicles lighter, using a traditional material like wood could be the way forward. Wood has been used as a building material for millions of years and the researchers based at Kyoto University in Japan think that wood pulp could be manufactured into products that are as strong as steel which still being around 80% lighter. The team of researchers chemically treat wood pulp which features millions of cellulose nanofibres, which are extracted and dispersed into plastic. Mixing the nanofibers with plastics can create a strong hybrid material that could replace steel in auto parts.