26. Feb 2020

Covestro develops polyurethane composite concept with kenaf fibres

Covestro develops polyurethane composite concept with kenaf fibres

For Toyota Motor Corporation's new "LQ" electric concept car, its car component manufacturer, Toyota Boshoku Corporation, selected Covestro as its partner for the joint development of a new, particularly lightweight polyurethane composite material reinforced with natural fibres.

Lightweight materials will play an increasingly important role in future mobility, e.g. they will further extend the range of electric cars. Covestro as a provider of material solutions has a 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.

Based on its innovation leadership, Covestro was chosen as partner by Toyota Boshoku Corporation, a car component manufacturer of the Japanese Toyota Group, for jointly developing a new polyurethane composite material for the new electric concept car “LQ” developed by Toyota Motor Corporation. The material is based on a combination of Covestro's advanced Baypreg F NF technology and Toyota Boshoku's expertise in using kenaf fibers, and offers a lightweight and sustainable solution. In the “LQ”, the new product is used in door trims: a world first in a car model from this manufacturer.

Kenaf is a member of the hibiscus genus and grows in regions such as South East Asia, Bangladesh, India and Africa. The fibre is obtained from bast fibres of the kenaf plant and has recently attracted attention as a cost-effective raw material with good mechanical properties. In the automotive industry, the plant fibre is also generating interest as an alternative raw material.

The kenaf fibre-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 lighter the material, the further the car can travel on a single gas or battery charge.

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 Centre.

“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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