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Your car may soon be more vegetable than mineral!





inphurno
Biocars: Your car may soon be more vegetable than mineral...

Quote:

How organic is your vehicle? While corn-based door panels and dashboards made from hemp may sound like a pipe dream, major car manufacturers have begun ditching traditional petroleum-based plastics and composites in favour of bio-based materials.

Indeed, researchers have predicted that by 2015, 100 kilograms of every car could come from materials made from plants like soy, wheat, canola and sugar cane.

"By and large, anything you make from oil you can make from biological material," says Terry Daynard, chief executive officer of the Ontario BioAuto Council, an industry-driven group working to promote biomaterials. "The question, of course, is can you do it in a cost-effective manner and can you do it with all the quality requirements the auto manufacturers want."

Increasingly, the answer seems to be yes.

Already, Mercedes S-Class vehicles boast 43 kg of bio-parts, for example, while Volvo uses renewable materials in nearly 100 different components.
Fuelling the bio-revolution

The biggest driver of this bio-revolution is the skyrocketing price of oil. North American car manufacturers facing stiff global competition are keen to reduce costs, says Daynard, and raw materials grown in the nearest cornfield could fit the bill.

"The reason we're moving in this direction is because it's going to be cheaper," he says flatly.

However, he predicts that environmental issues will also become a strong driver of biocar development in the future.

Biomaterials are considered "greener" than those based on materials such as fossil fuels because they don't generate greenhouse gases. Replacing one tonne of conventional plastic with a bio-equivalent eliminates three tonnes of planet-warming carbon dioxide, for example.

That's a big plus for manufacturers who see Europe setting hard targets for carbon dioxide emissions and want to be prepared if similar regulations are enacted here.

Bioplastics are also generally lighter than their petroleum-based counterparts, which translates into better mileage. Every one-kilogram reduction in vehicle weight saves up to nine litres of fuel a year.

Finally, when the life the vehicle ends, plant-based parts can be composted instead of consigned to landfills.
R&D a hot area

With some of the advantages inherent to biomaterials, it's no surprise that car manufacturers have been investing in research. DaimlerChrysler, GM and Ford have been actively involved in the Ontario BioAuto Council. Ford is a major partner in the BioCar Initiative, a multi-university project looking at ways to transform agricultural crops into bio-plastics, foams and composites for the auto industry.

The Ontario government has also bought into the vision, committing nearly $6 million to the BioCar Initiative. At the University of Guelph, that money is helping researchers create industrial strains of crops like wheat, corn and soybeans.

Focusing on common Ontario crops was a deliberate choice, says the University of Guelph's Larry Erickson, one of the initiative's lead researchers.

"If we want to become a significant contributor to the auto industry, that means we need to be able to produce fairly large volumes of some of these raw materials," he explains.

Meanwhile, process and chemical engineers in Waterloo and Toronto are developing polymers, resins and composite materials made from these crops, while University of Windsor scientists are testing the prototypes.
Stringent standards

Like their conventional counterparts, each bio-based part must be able to withstand stresses such as exposure to water, high temperatures and sudden impacts. The auto industry is a demanding market where any hint of a problem can lead to expensive recalls.

"They have to show that it's every bit as good as what they're using now, if not better," says Daynard, referring to the resiliency of biomaterials. "It's got to meet all the same criteria."

At the Woodbridge Group, for example, it took several years to develop a bio-based foam that would meet customer specifications. The main limiting factors were reactivity issues and odour issues, which the R&D team eventually overcame with help from suppliers and university researchers.

The resulting BioFoam, engineered from a combination of petroleum and vegetable oils, will be used in seat cushions in the 2008 Ford Escape. From a performance standpoint, consumers shouldn't even notice the switch, according to Tom Justrich, Woodbridge’s director of global marketing.

"With the products we're looking at, it's meant to be a seamless change," he says.

But with a growing consumer appetite for green products, manufacturers may well decide to tout the organic components of their vehicles.

"I think it will become a bit of a status symbol," Erickson predicts.
The future is biodegradable

Currently biomaterials are used mainly for interior applications where the requirements aren't too stringent: products like headliners, storage trays, and sound absorption blocks. But researchers have their sights aimed much higher.

"Our target is to replace all the plastic that's in the car now with plant-made materials," says Erickson. "We obviously can't replace the heavy metal parts such as the engine, drive train, that kind of thing, but there are lots of other parts that are petroleum-based."

"I think within 10 years we'll be at least half way," he says.

And with each part that's replaced, the planet is left just a little bit greener.

"That's ultimately what's driving this," Justrich says.


http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/tech/science/biocars.html

thats good news, its a funny consiquence of high oil price that they want to use less plastic but everything is about money....The only problem it's going to make food prices go up...At least anything made of corn. all the agricultural land will start being expesive if you combine that + bio fuels...
burqe
It seems that some days, there will be car farms. More over, burning wehicle will produced cooked vegetable and there would have to be usual pesticide sprays for the cars and what if refrigerations is required to preserve a car.

I know it does not make sence.
Insanity
Biofuel is NOT the environmental answer for replacing fossil fuels. If you do the research, you'll find that biofuels actually cause more damage to the environment than they actually prevent. There are many factors involved like the cost of food prices going up due to the production of corn to produce ethanol. Also, the fossil fuels used to produce biofuels outweigh the benefits for using it.

For further reading: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/08/science/earth/08wbiofuels.html?_r=2&pagewanted=1&oref=slogin
ZenFountain
It's only a matter of time before vehicles are constructed mostly of composites, i.e. carbon fiber, not organic composites.
Bikerman
ZenFountain wrote:
It's only a matter of time before vehicles are constructed mostly of composites, i.e. carbon fiber, not organic composites.
Err...why?
coolclay
They are stronger and better, I'd imagine?
Bikerman
Carbon Fibre is expensive and difficult to work. I do not see it replacing traditional materials in car building anytime soon (apart from super and hyper-cars).
Indyan
Bikerman wrote:
Carbon Fibre is expensive and difficult to work. I do not see it replacing traditional materials in car building anytime soon (apart from super and hyper-cars).

I dont see it happening soon, but I think it is something that is possible and may eventually happen. If they are able to find a way of mass production prices would come down automatically.
ptfrances
In my mind future vehicles will use different type of engine and fuels: Bio fuels are not the only answer but it could be good at short-term because it doesn't need a lot of technology to produce it and in few years, we could produce Biofuel with other things than wood or cereals.
But I'm sure that hydrogen, hybrid and all-electric vehicle will be the future for automobile industry. But they are going to be developped once at a time but at the end, electric vehicle will be the best.
smarter
It's not about ecology it's about economy.
With oil price going up and up some alternatives have already become cheaper.
And there is research to further "improve" engines that use alternative fuels (read cheaper to make and to use).
I guess in 20 years time no new car will use gas as fuel.

As concerns plastic this will be used many years. People don't want quality, they want cheap and so they get plastic!
icecool
ptfrances wrote:
In my mind future vehicles will use different type of engine and fuels: Bio fuels are not the only answer but it could be good at short-term because it doesn't need a lot of technology to produce it and in few years, we could produce Biofuel with other things than wood or cereals.
But I'm sure that hydrogen, hybrid and all-electric vehicle will be the future for automobile industry. But they are going to be developped once at a time but at the end, electric vehicle will be the best.


1. to produce biofuel needs a huge ammount of investment in new factories - these companies are looking for a long term return on their investment.
2. car's designs and mechanical makeup are not changeable just like that. you can't switch from one fuel to another and then in a few years to another - not everybody can afford a new car every year.
3. all electric cars.... hhuuummm... where does all the electricity come from? burning oil and biofuels?

cheers
LumberJack
I still think we should stay away from Biofuels as it is a "green fuel" in disguise. It is having a massive effect on the agricultural industries throughout the world as oil companies are buying HUGE reserves of lands in order to grow what they need and only what they need. Because of the high demand for bio crops, farmers are switching to growing them as well, due to the high price they can receive. The result? Huge increases in food prices.....
myroom
i hope the fuel price will go down.
bio fuel is a new technology, of course a new technology invented will definitely better than the previous one. i have never try the bio fuel before, but my friend talk a lot about the benefits of it. i guess this is a good fuel...
i hope the electric car will launching soon, seem this can help my "pocket"
coolclay
Electric car help your pocket?
At least at the current time electric vehicles will certainly not help your pocket. High electric prices, high up front costs and short lifespan of battery banks certainly does not make it helpful for you pocket. Even hybrid vehicles won't help your pocket.

If you really want something to help your pocket look into free fuel! Like making your own ethanol, biodiesel, or just straight veggie oil.
ocalhoun
inphurno wrote:

Finally, when the life the vehicle ends, plant-based parts can be composted instead of consigned to landfills.
R&D a hot area

I've avoided plastic in cars for a while now, because it decomposes too easily compared to treated metal... I'm pretty sure I don't want a car built from things that are designed to rot.
(Ya'll may be satisfied with a 5 or 10 year car, but I expect any quality car to last at least 25 years. And I consider a car 'good' when it can still be found running after 60 years or so. Those are rare, but the ranch where I work sometimes uses a 1941 Ford tractor, not for the sake of using an antique, but just because it works and is cheap.)
deanhills
ocalhoun wrote:
1941 Ford tractor, not for the sake of using an antique, but just because it works and is cheap.)
I guess those were the times when cars had been built to last. I remember the Volkswagens of the sixties and seventies, still lasting until today, and those plastic replacement "Volkswagens" with the little plastic flower, being a real insult on the memory of even the Volkswagen of Hitler's time. The only part that has really been improved is the quality of the painting of the shell that lasts longer than it did before and can withstand much high temperatures. But for the rest, cars are more difficult to maintain because of complicated electronics, are much more complicated in their make-up and aren't built to last. In fact I'm sure that these days they are built with a built-in absolescence factor in terms of number of years. One of these days they may even put a cap on the number of years of of the age of a car that will be allowed for passing inspection for road worthiness.
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