2nd January 2014
A three-year collaboration between The Lincoln Motor Company, sustainable solutions pioneer Weyerhaeuser and auto parts supplier Johnson Controls has culminated in the creation of a tree-based, renewable alternative to fiberglass for use in auto parts.
Using tree-harvested natural fibers in place of traditional glass-based fibers, Weyerhaeuser created Cellulose Reinforced Polypropylene. The use of Cellulose Reinforced Polypropylene – lighter and more eco-friendly than fiberglass – in a production vehicle is slated for introduction on 2014 model year Lincoln MKX vehicles built early next year.
Cellulose Reinforced Polypropylene replaces the fiberglass material traditionally used in the floor console armrest substrate – a structural piece located within the center console armrest. Pieces made from CRP are roughly 6 percent lighter, and decrease the reliance on less-environmentally friendly fiberglass parts.
The use of Cellulose Reinforced Polypropylene, while relatively small in the current project, marks an advancement that has the potential to play a more impactful role in the future, explained Ellen Lee, plastics research technical expert for Ford Motor Company.
“If we transfer its use to larger parts, it could really benefit the vehicle weight, which benefits fuel economy,” Lee said. “Cellulose has good reinforcement, so we looked at fiberglass-reinforced materials for this project.”
Cellulose Reinforced Polypropylene has been used on Ford Motor Company prototype vehicles in the past, but its use on Lincoln MKX marks its first application on a production vehicle.
“Today’s Lincoln customer is someone who appreciates luxury but it has to have meaning in the larger picture,” said Dan Brady, Lincoln consumer marketing manager. “They want to be proud of their car for what it does for them but they also want a sustainability that provides something more. This customer is about an automotive brand that has stunning design as well as personal bonus such as an environmentally impactful element.”