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Issue 01/2021

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  • Products
  • Automotive
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  • Sustainable
  • Carbon
  • Plastics
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  • Biobased
  • Foam
  • Bioplastics
Highlights: Automotive Foam Basics: Enzymes

Automotive From guitar

Automotive From guitar to Automotive By Alex Thielen Lingrove, the San Francisco, USA, based biocomposite manufacturer has set its eyes on the automotive market with their flagship material Ekoa ® Surface. Originally developed as a lightweight alternative to rainforest wood for guitars, Ekoa has been adapted to many applications from fishing rods to arrows, but has recently been applied to interior applications in cooperation with some of the largest commercial interiors companies in the world. And while the commercial interiors market is still very central to Lingrove’s future plans with furniture applications due next year, the automotive sector also offers a range of near-term opportunities. Ekoa is made from flax fibre, the strongest and stiffest natural fibre, which is already produced on an industrial scale, is CO 2 -negative, and requires no irrigation. Using flax fibres for car interior parts is not exactly a new groundbreaking idea but Joe Luttwak, Lingrove founder and president, only sees this as the first step of many, due to the specific properties Ekoa offers. “Ekoa uses flax, but that is only part of the recipe as Ekoa is not a material but both a structural and decorative composite product – all-in-one. Ekoa is the finished, show surface on a moulded part or panel with both the look and strength derived from high-performance plant inputs. We use flax today because of its exceptional stiffness, though our flexible platform allows for the use of many fibres in the future. Natural composites can have a higher specific modulus than E-glass and exhibit excellent strength-toweight properties for auto applications. Meanwhile, carbon fibre has 90 times the embodied carbon (carbon footprint, or total greenhouse gases released throughout the supply chain) compared to flax fibre.” Lingrove’s Ekoa Surfaces have up to 98% biobased content and are Clean Air Gold certified. Ekoa Surface is still undergoing a life cycle analysis which is projected to be carbon negative. And while sustainability is certainly one driving factor in the adaptation of natural fibres, it is by far not the only factor. Ekoa is lighter than carbon fibre, stiffer than fibreglass, and visco-elastic which means it doesn’t fail catastrophically – it bends before breaking unlike e.g., carbon fibre. Its main advantages over other materials are its mouldability and lightweighting, which could lead to better and more fuel-efficient vehicles. Luttwak sees opportunities to not just replace wood or conventional fibres, but plastics and metal parts as well. “This is a new class of composites materials and because they are rapidly renewable have the chance to compete price-wise with energy embodied, extractive materials, often for higher-margin interior applications such as panels, seating, and floors. Eventually, as production scales, we see body panels and eventually even the unibody,“ says Luttwak, “Ekoa can also accommodate geometry required of metal parts. Our tests suggest that Ekoa can be both stronger (tensile strength) and stiffer (tensile modulus) than aluminium, for instance, which means the entire vehicle is possible. Being able to mould into complex shapes is part of the way to achieve lower mass, regardless of the material used. While this concept of the biobased car structure is still in early development, I see Ekoa as a key solution to bringing down embodied carbon across mobility and eventually the built environment by replacing plastics, metals, and conventional composites.” Luttwak has a background in the automotive industry having worked for Ferrari early in his career, he knows the high requirements this sector demands firsthand, but is also aware of the need for more sustainable solutions. He notes that 20% of CO 2 emissions for the automotive industry comes from producing the car alone, a vehicle made almost entirely of Ekoa would be able to cut a major portion of this 20 %. If that will be actually possible remains to be seen. However, Lingrove has made its first steps towards that vision, are in pilots with Tier 1 automotive suppliers and automotive companies in North America, Europe and Asia, and have received their first purchase order from a U.S. automotive OEM for an aesthetic lightweighting application in late 2020. And they have further orders from a few other Tier 1 suppliers since then. These applications are targeted for 2023 production models. It will take quite a bit longer until we can hope to see a whole Ekoa car, but to end with Luttwak’s optimistic words about his material, “the possibilities are endless.” Form Ekoa Film, Panel Premium Wood How Ekoa compares (Source Lingrove) Lexus interieur (Source Lingrove) Aluminium 6061 Carbon laminate Aircraft ‘E-Glass’ Blanks Sheet Roll Roll Density (g/m³) 1.13 0.5-0.08 2.7 1.7 2.6 Tensile strenght (MPa) ASTM D30393 Tensile Modulus (MPa) ASTM D3039 377 34 Highly variable Highly variable 310 1800 1500 70 135 32 Cost $$ $$$ $ $$$ $$ 18 bioplastics MAGAZINE [01/21] Vol. 16

Luca, the world’s first Zero-Waste Car Automotive Every year, Netherland-based student company TU/ ecomotive produces an electric car with a team of 21 BA students from the Eindhoven University of Technology, in the aim of showing the world that the hypothetical, sustainable car of the future, can be a reality today. The design of the sixth TU/ecomotive car, Luca, was revealed October 8, 2020. With this zero-waste car, the team wants to show that waste can be a valuable material with a multitude of applications. The car reaches a top speed of 90 km/h and a range of 220 kilometres. A great deal of Luca’s efficiency comes from its lightweight construction: the car only weighs 360 kg without and around 420 kg with batteries. Luca is made of materials that are normally thrown away. The chassis of Luca consists of a unique sandwich panel that the students have developed in collaboration with several companies. The sandwich panel consists of three layers: the two outer layers which are made from a combination of flax fibres and PP taken from the ocean, and a middle layer, namely a PET honeycomb core. The front and rear parts of the chassis are made out of a tube frame from recycled aluminium. The seat cushions are made coconut fibre and horsehair, the fabric surrounding the cushions is made out of recycled PET but looks and feels like suede. Luca’s body was manufactured by TU/ecomotive out of UBQ material. UBQ is a patented novel climate-positive material created by Israeli start-up UBQ Materials, based in Tel Aviv, that can substitute conventional plastic, wood, and concrete in the manufacturing of everyday products. UBQ is a proprietary composite, the world’s first biobased material made of unsorted organic, paper, and plastic waste – everything from banana peels to dirty diapers to used yoghurt containers and cardboard. The central value proposition of using UBQ is its sustainability metrics, significantly reducing and even neutralizing the carbon footprint of final applications. By diverting household waste from reaching landfills, UBQ prevents the emission of methane, groundwater leakage, and other toxins. A new Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) study conducted by Switzerland-based sustainability consulting firm Quantis, meeting ISO 14040 and ISO 14044 standards, demonstrates the climate positive environmental footprint of transforming unrecyclable Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) destined for landfilling into UBQ. The LCA shows that UBQ’s environmental impact at a Global Warming Potential (GWP) of 20 years is -11.69 kg CO 2 –eq per kg UBQ. This means that for every 1 kg of UBQ created, almost 12 kg of CO 2 -eq are prevented from polluting the environment over a 20-year period. Quantis concluded that, “to the best of our knowledge, UBQ is the most climate positive thermoplastic material in the market today.” This isn’t the first time UBQ is used in automotive manufacturing. In early 2020, UBQ Materials announced its collaboration with Daimler, manufacturer of Mercedes- Benz, for the implementation of UBQ in car parts and throughout Daimler’s supply chain. Luca is designed to be highly energy efficient. The car’s in-wheel motors mitigate losses in the drivetrain, and the two electric motors have a combined power of 15 kW, powered by six modular battery packs. The packs are easily replaceable so that when new technology is available in the future they can be seamlessly substituted by full packs and more modern batteries. The next step for TU/ecomotive is to obtain a license plate for Luca. By ensuring that the car is road legal, the team wants to prove that sustainable innovation is readily available to implement across the automotive industry. AT | LUCA (PHOTO: Bart van Overbeeke Fotografie) LUCA interieur (Photo: TU/ecomitive) bioplastics MAGAZINE [01/21] Vol. 16 19

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