Faurecia, one of the largest car parts suppliers in the world, has developed a hemp-based plastic made entirely from renewable materials, which it hopes to mass produce by 2016.
Introduced last week at the L.A. Auto Show, the new product is called BioMat and offers a lighter and more eco-friendly alternative to traditional injection-moulded plastic, reports the magazine Eco Composites.
BioMat is produced from a mixture of hemp fibers and a bio-based matrix called PBS (poly-butylene succinate), which Mitsubishi’s chemical division helped develop.
It will be used to make interior components like door panels, which can then be covered with various textiles or leather.
According to the company, BioMat “reduces the industry’s dependence on the oil price and helps reduce greenhouse gases and will contribute to a higher recyclability level for future vehicles, as well as to a positive impact on the life cycle assessment.”
While hemp is not uncommon in cars today, the use of all-natural materials makes BioMat an improvement over older hemp composites, including Faurecia’s NAFILean product, which is made from hemp and petroleum-based polypropylene.
Both BioMat and NAFILean weigh about 25% less than comparable fiberglass materials, contributing to better car performance and fuel efficiency.
Faurecia, which specializes in interior components, was the 7th largest global supplier of OEM parts in 2012, according to Automotive News.
The company’s top customers include Volkswagen, Ford, Renault-Nissan, GM and BMW.
Most of the company’s sales come from Europe, where automotive manufacturers face stricter environmental regulations than North America, and are steadily turning to bio-based materials as a result.