Materials used in modern car production are often cheap and synthetic but some manufacturers are using a fibre found in Money
One of the worlds toughest natural fibres called Abaca (or Manilla Hemp) is used commercially in bank notes, fishing lines and various papers but it is now being used in some other less obvious places – inside cars!
Specifically the fibres can help with adding to the strength of the dashboard and other sections of the interior. The Mercedes-Benz A class actually uses Abaca infused polymer in its spare wheel well cover.
This marks the first time that a component containing natural fibres has been used in the exterior of a passenger car and it paves the way for a whole new side to car production.
The Swiss automotive supplier Rieter are behind the components for the A class made with the Filipino fibres. A direct processing procedure for long fibre-reinforced thermoplastics (d-LFT) was refined for the use of natural fibres in order to attain the qualities that an exterior component must possess, including resistance to stone chipping, weather conditions and moisture.
Will it catch on?
Since 2004, DaimlerChrysler have been working on ways to plant and grow Abaca in a sustainable way that also offers some advantages to the commercial process when used as a fibre and this has been progressing steadily. It is now said to bring primary energy savings of more than 60% compared to production with glass fibre.
Gerard Seuvre, Head of Research & Technology at Reiter has commented on the progress made saying “In close cooperation with DaimlerChrysler and Manila Cordage, we have impressively demonstrated our capacity for development,” adding “…the success of this project was by no means a foregone conclusion.” referring to the logistics of the operation.
It does seem as though natural fibres may start to become a much more common component of Mercedes vehicles although there will be many challenges along the way.
Abaca fibres are only made in the Philippines and are harvested from a plant related to the banana. Check out the videos below to see exactly what Abaca fibres look like and how they are made.