Bio-based materials open new opportunities for auto assemblers, as they prepare for higher manufacturing costs and tougher environmental regulations. An eco-conscience is building in the auto industry, reflecting consumer demands. For example, in the 2007 DuPont Automotive/SPE Survey, auto designers and engineers said lower emissions and clean air regulations were their top environmental challenges. Additionally, bio-based/alternative fuels and renewably sourced materials were among the most important environmental/sustainability challenges for engineer's and designer's development work, according to the 2007 survey findings. The interest in renewably sourced materials and alternative fuels jumped 60 percent compared to results in 2006.
Making lighter, cleaner cars requires a switch from heavy metal parts to plastics. Bioplastics and composites offer renewable alternatives that often use less energy to produce, and demonstrate superior performance without adding extra weight. The Ontario BioAuto Council believes plastics that are increasingly bio-based can help meet industry sustainability and emissions targets.
Ontario's biggest auto assemblers are on board with using renewable feedstocks. Chrysler, GM and Ford have been actively involved with the Ontario BioAuto Council as well as pursuing their own bio-based materials.
Toyota has used bioplastics in various models, such as the Lexus ES300, which contains a plastic rear storage tray reinforced with kenaf plant fibres. Mazda is another auto company with bioproducts on its agenda. A Mazda exhibit in Japan recently featured interior parts made from high-strength, heat-resistant bioplastic, which contains 88 percent corn-based polylactic acid. Ford has introduced plant-based polyurethane foam in the 2008 Escape and shows ongoing commitment to renewable content.
As markets expand for biobased products, the Ontario BioAuto Council will link research and development in the auto industry with leaders in the agriculture and forestry fields to secure the long-term competitive edge of Ontario's auto assemblers.