With a combined attendance of around 70 participants, the inaugural bio! CAR conference, organized by bioplastics MAGAZINE together with the nova-Institute, can truly be termed a success. The new conference, which focussed exclusively on biobased materials in automotive engineering, was launched in Stuttgart, Germany on 24 and 25 September, within the framework of COMPOSITES EUROPE 2015. bio! CAR attracted attendees representing the entire value chain, ranging from raw materials producers to OEMs, Tier 1 and other suppliers.
The theme of the bio!CAR conference aimed to reflect the trend towards the increasing use of biobased polymers and natural fibres in the automotive industry: more and more manufacturers and suppliers are betting on biobased alternatives derived from renewable raw materials such as wood, flax, jute, sisal, cotton or coir, used as reinforcement materials, as well as reinforced or unreinforced, but biobased thermoplastics, thermoset or chemical building blocks. According to the Hürth-based nova-Institute, the European car industry processed approximately 80,000 tonnes (2012) of wood and natural fibres into composites. The total volume of bio-based composites in automotive engineering was 150,000 tonnes.
Bioplastics are equally useful for premium applications in the auto sector. Castor oil-based polyamides are used in high-performance components, polylactic acid (PLA) in door panels, soy-based foams in seat cushions and arm rests, and biobased epoxy resins in composites.
The bio!CAR conference was filled with a host of expert presentations on the latest developments, the overall market situation and the legal frameworks in the field of biobased materials. Today’s portfolio of these materials ranges from the conventional plastics filled or reinforced with sophisticated natural-fibre products to the biobased, drop-in plastics, such as castor oil-based polyamides, biobased epichlorohydrin for epoxy resins or biobased EPDM elastomers. And although one speaker commented that these drop-ins were ‘kind of boring because they cannot be differentiated from their fossil-based counterparts’, the majority of attendees agreed that the fact that these drop-ins are partly or fully biobased represents a significant advantage. Novel bioplastics, such as furfuryl alcohol or isosorbide-based bio-polycarbonate, were also featured.
During a panel discussion, the conference discussed the questions: “The future of automobile interior parts – Light weight, easy to recycle, biobased or even biodegradable? Where does the journey go?”. One aspect that emerged in the discussion was that performance and sustainability are key. “Not biobased for the sake of biobased only,” as Maira Magnani (Ford) put it.
The Get-Together sponsored by bioplastics MAGAZINE and Fraunhofer WKI afforded attendees the opportunity to meet and mingle close to the exhibited Bioconcept Car, a race car that includes a number of different bioplastic and biocomposite parts.
In addition to the highly acclaimed (by delegates, speakers and exhibitors) conference, all attendees had free access to the COMPOSITES EUROPE trade show, which included a special Bio-based Composites Pavilion, featuring over 20 exhibitors.