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Could car parts of the future be made out of wood?

September 29, 2017 | By | In News
The wooden frame of the Morgan is constructed in the timber shop at the factory in Malvern, Worcestershire, Wednesday November 19 2008. PA Photo : David Davies.

Japanese researchers have found that strong wood could be used to replace steel parts in future cars.

What’s more, using wood is more feasible as trees are a more sustainable supply of materials that can be continually planted, and takes less time to process.

Senior vice-president at consultancy firm Frost & Sullivan Vivek Vaidya also believes that it is feasible to use wood on most of the car apart from the engine components and performance parts.

He said: “Most components are supplied on-demand, whether a wood or organic material can be made available in a just-in-time way is definitely a question mark.”

Car manufacturers are always working to make cars lighter, and another way this could be done is by building cars with plastics. However, the materials used need to withstand high levels of heat – something the researchers are still working on.

Paolo Martino, principal automotive components analyst at IHS Markit, told the BBC: “There is a rush to try and cut as much weight as possible, especially on cars which will pollute more, like SUVs [sports utility vehicles] or pick-up trucks.”

With a push towards electric and hybrid vehicles, being lightweight is an ideal solution because if a car is lighter then the battery will last longer and therefore the car will be able to travel further. The same can be said to improve economy in petrol – and diesel powered vehicles.

Tatsuo Kaneko is a professor at the Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology. He has been developing a type of plastic that he believes could the first of its kind and would be able to withstand the immense heat emanating from the engine bay.

He told the BBC: “Plastics haven’t been used in car parts requiring higher heat resistance around the engine block because they haven’t been able to withstand the heat.

“But the bioplastics I have produced can withstand higher temperatures.”

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