BMW aims to reduce carbon footprint using innovative materials

Part of the automotive industry’s current revolution is tied up in efforts to be more environmentally friendly. These efforts include the use of more sustainable materials, recycling projects, using renewable energy, and so on. And so it is interesting to see what one of the big carmakers plans are in this area.

BMW recently announced its strategy aimed to both drastically reduce CO2 per vehicle by 2030, and promote the circular economy. Where BMW and other big players go, others may follow.

BMW Group says it is focusing its research and development efforts on environmentally-compatible raw materials while at the same time targeting the creation of a secondary-materials market and working with start-ups and experienced suppliers to develop pioneering materials.

The company has used renewable raw materials in its vehicles for a number of years now and it says that those renewables like natural fibres are not only 30 percent lighter than plastic alternatives, they also absorb CO2 and release oxygen during the growth phase.

In recognition of this potential, BMW says it and its partners have further developed the use of fibres such as hemp, kenaf and flax. Wood can also be used as a renewable raw material in many different areas, and the company is conducting research into wood foams with an open-pored structure made up of finely ground wood particles. These foams’ make it possible to dispense with synthetic adhesives and could replace acoustic foams in the future.

The BMW Group is also working with plastic manufacturers to further develop recycled plastics and bioplastics. The company employs bio-based plastics and plastics reinforced with natural fibres such as cellulose, hemp, wood or bamboo to reduce the percentage of oil-based primary plastics. The aim is to use thermoplastics with an average of 40 percent recycled material by 2030.

New vegan and resource-efficient leather alternatives are also being researched. The company says synthetic leather, recycled polyester textiles, and cork particles enable CO2 emissions to be reduced by up to 45 per cent compared to current PVC synthetic leather. Also being researched is a sustainable cactus-based material called Deserttex that is made from pulverised cactus fibres. Yet another alternative is the fully recyclable Mirum, which mimics all the properties of traditional leather.

Other innovative materials with the potential for use in future vehicles include synthetic textile variants, which are mostly used for seat covers which can be manufactured from 100-percent recycled material. Thanks to their composition, BMW says they can repeatedly be fed back into the cycle and reused several times over the course of their product lifecycle.

“We are setting new standards for sustainable premium quality by rethinking materials and focusing more than ever on resource-efficient alternatives and renewable materials with strong dismantling capability,” said Dr Stefan Floeck, head of Development Body, Exterior, Interior, responsible for Product Line MINI, Compact Class BMW. “We are following a consistent path towards holistically sustainable product development, responsible use of resources and transformation into a circular economy.”

No doubt we will see more of this innovation in the near future.

Source: Motor Trader e-Magazine (September 2021)

13 September 2021

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