Car seats and roof linings made of wood, flax, maize and recycled PET
Sustainability is not a trend anymore. Current legislation requires the automobile industry to employ innovative recycling concepts and renewable raw materials. Hence, research and industry are working together to develop new, environmentally-friendly fibres – for everything from seat covers to foot mats. When it comes to developing new, extremely sustainable vehicles, the focus is no longer solely on service life and fuel consumption but also, and increasingly, on the entire life cycle. From the body shell, engine and wheels to the foot mats, every component is subject to close scrutiny.
In this matter, mobile textiles have become more important and are likely to continue to grow. Together with textile-research institutes, companies are developing innovative technical textiles for tomorrow’s cars. In this connection, the focus is on two aspects in particular: recycling concepts and fibres made of renewable raw materials.
Recycled polyester is used extensively in the new Ford Focus Electric. A large part of the seat covers are made from ‘Repreve’, a fibre produced using old PET bottles. Around 22 plastic bottles are turned into textiles for every Ford Focus Electric interior. This not only saves the corresponding
quantity of mineral oil but also the associated energy and CO2 emissions.
At Citroën, the emphasis is on nature. Since last year, the seats of the Citroën C4 have been covered with a fabric woven from Tencel fibres. Tencel is a cellulose fibre made out
of wood by Lenzing in Austria and is biodegradable. In addition to seat-cover fabrics, Tencel fibres can a
lso be used in the automobile sector as highly voluminous fibres for mats, as a fibrous powder for plastic parts and as textile fibres for nonwovens and battery separators.
In its ‘Nature Wins’ project, the Institute for Textile Technology of RWTH Aachen brings together no less than three sustainable factors: recyclability, renewable raw materials and biodegradability. Since January last year, the Institute has been working together with its Belgian project partners, Centexbel Research Centre and Sirris Leuven Composites Application Lab, on a new composite material made of PLA as a biopolymer and flax as a natural fibre. Combining the two components creates a bio-composite with the positive qualities of flax fibre, which approximate to those of glass fibre but
are not so dense. This means that material can be saved in subsequent processing. The fibres can be used to make both nonwovens and yarns and woven fabrics. After exhaustive testing, the first seat for a F1 racing car – using composite structures made of flax and PLA – was produced last February.
Background picture: Ford-Werke GmbH