Toray Industries Inc announced that it has started full-fledged mass production of its environment-friendly fiber materials based on polylactic acid (hereinafter referred to as “PLA”) and plant-derived polyesters for automobile applications. Toray has already been supplying the materials for the trunk and floor carpeting to Toyota Motor Corp. in its latest hybrid model of Lexus, the HS 250h, launched on July 14th this year.
At the same time, Toray is promoting the products to other automakers. Toray aims to have annual sales of 200 tons for the first year for products including ceiling upholstery and door trim materials, and expects them to grow to 5,000 tons per year by 2015.
Materials to be used in different automobile interior parts have to clear tough and varied physical property requirements. Generally, environment-friendly materials such as PLA used to be believed to lack in heat and wear resistance properties in comparison to regular polyester. Though various efforts were being made to address those weaknesses, the adoption of such materials in automobile applications had so far been limited to a few models due to a number of shortcomings.
This time Toray developed various technologies for compounding environment-friendly materials with petroleum-based products, including a proprietary hydrolysis control technology to modify polymer and techniques for compounding using polymer alloys and in the process of fiber spinning as well as mixed fiber compounding during higher processing. By making full use of these technologies, Toray succeeded in achieving the significantly high levels of durability sought by automobile interior applications, enabling actual adoption by mass-produced vehicles.
Having cleared the tough physical property benchmarks for automobile interiors, Toray will focus on further development of materials with higher plant-derived biomass percentage and expand the materials’ applications into wide-ranging applications such as general apparel and industrial materials.
In this age of growing importance for environment-consciousness, automobile manufacturers are striving to develop advanced technologies and aiming for a motorized society that can co-exist with the environment. The companies are actively considering a shift from the existing petroleum-based materials to products made from plant-derived materials for interior components which make up about 5 to 10% of a vehicle’s body weight. The use of plant-derived materials is expected to explode in the future, given the fact that it has low CO2 emissions in its lifecycle from production to disposal and it helps in curbing the use of the limited fossil fuel resources.
Under its Innovation by Chemistry slogan, Toray is actively pursuing the development of environment-friendly products and aims to contribute to the development of a sustainable, recycling-oriented society through its sales of environment-friendly automobile parts