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Christmas tree

New Life for Christmas Trees as Car Parts?

Christmas treeA tree-based, renewable alternative to fiberglass for use in auto parts is the culmination of a collaboration between the Lincoln Motor Company, Weyerhaeuser and Johnson Controls.

Using tree-harvested natural fibers in place of traditional glass-based fibers, Weyerhaeuser created Cellulose Reinforced Polypropylene. The product, which the company says is 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 about 6 percent lighter, and decrease the reliance on less-environmentally friendly fiberglass parts.

The use of CRP, while relatively small in the current project, has the potential to play a larger role in the future, says Ellen Lee, plastics research technical expert for Ford. “If we transfer its use to larger parts, it could really benefit the vehicle weight, which benefits fuel economy,” Lee says.

CRP has been used on Ford prototype vehicles in the past, but its use on Lincoln MKX marks its first application on a production vehicle.

Last month Ford and Coca-Cola partnered to use plant-based material as part of the interior fabric on a Ford Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid research vehicle. The fabric, made from Coke’s PlantBottle Technology consists of up to 30 percent plant-based materials and covers seat cushions, seat backs, head restraints, door panel inserts and headliners.

Photo Credit: spruce tree via Shutterstock


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