Kenaf Composite for Toyota Concept Car

Lightweight materials will play an increasingly important role in future mobility where they can further extend the range of electric cars. Covestro as a provider of material solutions has long-term experience in the global automotive industry. This also applies to the Japanese market, where the Innovation Center of Covestro has already developed many sustainable solutions, for instance components for low-density polyurethane foams.

Kenaf fiber-reinforced polyurethane foam composite features an area density of of less than 1 kg/m2. Image courtesy of Toyota.

Covestro partnered Toyota Boshoku Corporation, a car component manufacturer of the Japanese Toyota Group, to jointly develop a new polyurethane composite material for the new LQ electric concept car  developed by Toyota Motor Corporation. The material is based on a combination of Covestro's Baypreg F NF technology and Toyota Boshoku's expertise in using kenaf fibers, and offers a lightweight and sustainable solution. The new product is used in the LQ’s door trims.

Kenaf is a member of the hibiscus family and is found in regions such as Southeast Asia, Bangladesh, India and Africa. The fiber is obtained from bast fibers of the kenaf plant and has recently attracted increasing attention as a cost-effective raw material with good mechanical properties. In the automotive industry, the plant fiber is also attracting increasing interest as an alternative raw material.

The kenaf fiber-reinforced polyurethane foam composite is characterized by a very low area density of less than 1 kg/m2 and high strength, making the door trim made of the fiber-reinforced kenaf polyurethane foam 30 percent lighter than that produced from conventional materials.

The new composite material was developed in close cooperation between Toyota Boshoku and Covestro's recently renovated Japanese Innovation Center. "Our joint development makes an important contribution to the design of particularly lightweight and sustainable vehicles," says Hiroaki Ido, Head of Polyurethanes Application Development for Transportation at Covestro's Japanese Innovation Center. "It is also a good example of our company's focus on using alternative raw materials and establishing a circular economy."



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