Toyota says it will introduce a model next year that will use
renewable plastic-based compounds that cover 80 percent of the interior.
The announcement fits into a Toyota plan to replace 20
percent (by weight) of all oil-based plastics for cars with bioplastics by
2015. That adds up to 360,000 metric tons of bioplastics.
The opening last July of a new Braskem plant in Brazil is
speeding Toyota's use of bioplastics. A component of polyethylene terephthalate
(PET) is being made from sugar cane at the new plant, which is also supplying
material for Coca-Cola's new PlantBottle.
PET consists of 70 percent terephthalic acid and 30 percent monoethylene
glycol, by weight. Bio-PET is made by replacing monoethylene glycol with a raw
material derived from sugar cane.
Toyota's first use of the material is liner material in the
luggage-compartment in the Lexus CT200h due at the beginning of 2011, Toyota
plans to increase both the number of vehicle series featuring the new material,
as well as the amount of vehicle-interior area covered by it.
The new material, according to Toyota, features enhanced
performance (heat-resistance, durability performance, shrink resistance)
compared to conventional bioplastics and performance parity with
petroleum-based PET. Costs will be comparable to oil-based PET once high
production volumes are achieved, says Toyota.
The car maker also feels the bioPET may be used in seats and
carpeting and other interior components that require a high level of
performance unattainable by previously available bioplastics.
Use of bioplastics at Toyota dates to 2000. In 2003, Toyota
became the first in the world to use bioplastics in a mass-production vehicle.
Polyactic acid was used in the spare tire cover and floor mats of the
Japanese-market "Raum" small car.
The Sai hybrid launched last year uses bioplastics to cover
60 percent of the exposed surfaces of interior parts. Toyota is using fibers
made from DuPont Sorona plastic for the ceiling surface skin, sun visor, and
Toyota calls bioplastics "Ecological Plastic".
Toyota is making widespread use of bioplastics in an effort to
reduce the carbon footprint of materials used in its vehicles
"Ecological Plastic has the benefit of being more carbon
neutral than conventional petroleum-based plastics, meaning it can lessen
product-life-cycle carbon dioxide emissions; use of it can contribute to a
reduction in the use of limited petroleum resources," a company spokesperson
The new bio-PET was developed with Toyota Tsusho, a trading
company that is part of the Toyota Group. Toyota has committed to buy 40
percent of the output of a brand-new Braskem plant in Brazil that will produce 200,000
metric tons of ethylene from sugar annually.
Toyota was initially focused on production of its own PLA as
an automotive material, but sold its 1,000 metric tons per year plant making
"Biofront" PLA to Mazda and Teijin. Toray Industries and NatureWorks still supply
PLA to Toyota.
Floor mats for the remodeled third-generation Toyota Prius
uses an advanced PLA-based fiber. Other applications for bioplastic in the
Prius are seat cushion foam, cowl side trim, inner and outer scuff plates, and
deck trim cover. Toyota used PLA to replace petroleum-derived nylon resin used
in floor mats. The PLA for the floor mats came from NatureWorks, which supplied
Ingeo to Toyota Tsusho Corp.
Another important new bioplastic application for Toyota is
the use of DuPont Zytel RS 6/10 in a radiator end
tank in the 2010 Camry sedan. Requirements for the nylon in the radiator
application include exceptional heat resistance, durability, and road salt
One of the new applications in 2011 will be a fiber that
backs vinyl in sheets used to cover seats, dashes and door interiors. Working
with Toyota engineers, Canadian General-Tower (CGT) developed a calendered
vinyl called Vehreo that is proccessable on existing equipment.
The fabric layer under the vinyl is made 55 percent from
recycled PET bottles. A plasticizer made from soybean oil and castor bean oil makes
up 10 to 35 percent of the main layer.
"We plan in the next iteration to replace 100 per cent of
the phthalates with soy oil and castor bean oil," says Patrick Diebel, vice
president, advanced technology for Canadian General-Tower.
Toyota says that a surface coating on the sheet is a protein
that can replace a petroleum-derived thermoset such as polyurethane or
The bioplasticozer project is partially funded by the
Ontario (Canada) BioAuto Council.
Ford Motor Company is also a leader
in using bioplastics in cars. Ford engineers have pioneered developments
leading to large-sale use of castor-oil as a feedstock in polyurethane foams.