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Making a car with sunshine

There’s more to a vehicle than metal. And chances are if it’s not metal, it’s something created from petroleum — like plastic trim and polyester fibre.

There’s more to a vehicle than metal. And chances are if it’s not metal, it’s something created from petroleum — like plastic trim and polyester fibre.

But times are a changing.

Consider this quote on Ford’s website, attributed to Cynthia Flanigan, a technical expert with Ford Plastics Research: “Whenever petroleum-based materials exist — in plastic, rubber, foam, film or fabric — we are looking to minimize its proportion and replace it with a sustainable material.”

A “sustainable material” would either be a plant-based material and/or a recycled material.
Ford has been using soy-based foam for car seats for a few years now (starting on the 2007 Mustang). It recently expanded its soy-foam portfolio to the industry’s first soy-foam headliner on the 2010 Escape.

And among Ford’s recycled materials initiatives are seat fabrics made with varying degrees of post-industrial yarns, suede-like material created from plastic pop bottles (Taurus SHO and Lincoln MKZ), and sound deadening and carpet backing fashioned in part from old blue jeans (2012 Focus).

While recycling efforts are useful and necessary, the cooler science projects are happening with non-traditional materials, such as plants.

Consider the recently announced BamBoo, which Rinspeed, a Swiss auto design firm, will unveil at this spring’s Geneva auto show. It’s called BamBoo because many interior components are made from bamboo fibre.

Rinspeed’s press release says the open-top electric-powered concept car “awakens the longing for sun and summer; for lightness and easiness; and the desire to be at the beach.”

And it gets better: “It is a reminiscence of the 70s, of the south of France and St. Tropez. And one would expect to find Brigitte Bardot behind the wheel with playboy Gunther Sachs at her side heading toward Tahiti beach.”

Rinspeed figures that retro and greeness go good together, like wine and cheese, claiming that its old-new design creations are about channeling “the yearning to get back to the roots, paired with the absolute desire to be in harmony with creation.”

May be a highfalutin way of expressing the sentiment, but probably not a totally off-base one for a lot of people.

 
 
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