Using recycled products or waste materials from other processes to create interior elements of a car is becoming one of the main objectives of the manufacturers. There are technical reasons (the search for lightness) and economic reasons (the important savings) to justify this strategy. But there is also an assumption of social responsibility, that is environmental, on the part of the builders.

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There is no shortage of examples. Volvo – already capable of recycling 5% of the plastic it uses – wants to reach 25% in five years using used bottles and old abandoned seats. The Polestar electric, the Volvo family, which works on vegan interiors, that is, without materials of animal origin, wants to reduce the use of plastic. The Seaqual Yam yarn that covers the seats of the Fiat Panda and 500 Hybrid made entirely of recycled plastic: 10% from the seabed and the remaining 90% from the road. The seats of the Audi A3 are partly made from recycled fishing nets. Seat, a brand of Spanish origin of the Volkswagen group, is added to the list of cases: the goal is to use rice husk, a by-product of rice processing normally destined for landfills, to refine vehicle interiors instead of plastic.

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The husk is not an absolute novelty. Goodyear already uses it to make some tires. It accounts for 20% of the rice crop, equal to 150 million tonnes out of the 750 collected annually worldwide. The Spanish cooperative Cmara Arrossera del Montsi (near Tarragona) has developed a process by which, instead of being burned, the husk is transformed into oryzite: a material that can be mixed with other thermoplastic compounds and modeled. We are always looking for new materials – explains Joan Colet, engineer responsible for the development of the manufacturer’s interior finishes – and the rice husk allows us to reduce plastic and petroleum-based materials, as well as eliminate waste. Already today some parts of the Leon – such as the tailgate trim, the double boot floor and the headliner – have this component, mixed with polyurethanes and polypropylenes. The goal of extending use.

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Visually, there is no difference with traditional materials. But the parts are lighter. The experimentation is used by the engineers of the Spanish company to understand what the optimal percentage of oryzite in the individual components of the car. The double loading floor of the luggage compartment must support 100 kg of weight concentrated in a single point to be considered sufficiently rigid and robust. But in addition to the weight test, there are thermal ones in the climatic chamber, to analyze the resistance to heat, cold and humidity. If the prototypes we are making meet the requirements they will be brought into series production, and then an interesting story will begin.

November 25, 2020 (change November 25, 2020 | 10:33 am)

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