SEMA eNews Vol. 10, No. 24, June 14, 2007

VEHICLE INTERIORS NOW KINDER TO THE ENVIRONMENT

Automakers are increasing their use of “environmental-friendly” materials in vehicle interiors, according to a recent WardsAuto.com article. The article notes that one of the hottest “eco-friendly” interior materials is soybeans, which in the form of soybean oil can be used in place of petroleum polyols to create foam for headrests, armrests and seat cushions.

On average, 30–40 pounds of petroleum-based foam is used in every vehicle interior, says Ash Galbreath, director of foam and comfort engineering for Lear Corp. The company says that they have developed what they call “SoyFoam” which will be used in a 2008 vehicle model.

Basalt, essentially volcanic rock, is another green material gaining stream. Azdel Inc., a joint venture of GE Plastics and PPG, makes a product it calls VolcaLite, which is used in the headliner of the current-generation Acura MDX cross/utility vehicle.

Basalt mineral fibers are combined with polypropylene resins to create this substrate, which Frederick S. Deans, market leader for Azdel’s glass mat thermoplastics business says is attractive to Japanese OEMs because of end-of-life regulations in Japan, which require vehicles to be recycled. Although the supply of basalt is limited—about 5,000 tons of it is currently available globally—its use is desirable among automakers that wish to substitute fiberglass used in headliners.

Recycled yarn is used by Ford in the seats of its 2008 Escape Hybrid, while Mercedes-Benz has been using animal wool and hair as sound-absorbing materials for years. As automakers begin pushing the use of environmentally friendly materials in their vehicles, there may be opportunities for specialty-equipment companies to promote “environment-friendliness” in their products as well.

Source: Christie Schweinsberg. (June 6, 2007). “Regulations, Awareness Causing Interest in Green Interiors.” WardsAuto.com. Retrieved 6/7/2007 from www.wardsauto.com.