Back to the roots

Auto News

Some of the car manufacturers is on the wrong track, and although in the literal sense: The material from the forest will in future open up new possibilities in lightweight construction.



Christian Frahm

Saturday, 07.05.2016
07:34 PM

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Little Time? At the end of text there is a summary.

BMW electric car i3 carbon, Jaguar equips its models with an Aluminium body. Using innovative materials, the manufacturers want to reduce the weight of the vehicle and thus the CO2 emissions. In the battle for every gram of some of the developers are now returning to the roots. To wood concrete:. In the future, the material should not be adorning in the vehicle, only the Cockpit, but also installed there, where essential technical advantages.

As automotive pioneers like Benz or Daimler constructed 130 years ago, the first cars, you put your engines on wooden carriages. Later, so-called Woodies were, especially in the United States and England became popular. The combined models, whose bodywork was made structure of wood or thin wood panels carried on the plates. The English sports car maker Morgan is still sold today, Roadster, from a hand-crafted ash wood based frame.


A series of “Woodie”-Mobile in California

In the current Renaissance of the wood material such nostalgic aspects have no meaning. “We want to use wood in areas where it makes ecological and economic sense,” says Ulrich Mueller of the University for ground culture (Boku) in Vienna. Together with a Team of scientists from the 49-Year-old is researching the material properties of wood and collects data on density, tensile strength or elasticity.

The advantages of wood…

Because marriage is a new material for the manufacture of cars comes at all into consideration, it must be clarified how it behaves with different loads. This information will serve as a Basis for computer simulations, which will be charged, as well what kind of wood the case of an accident. “In the meantime, we can drive the car virtually up against the wall and the failure behavior of wood components on the basis of the material simulation to observe,” says Müller.

The biggest advantage of wood is the comparatively low weight. A cubic centimetre weighs between 0.5 to 0.8 grams. For aluminum this value is about 2.7 grams, in the case of steel at eight grams per cubic centimeter. Beech wood, for example, weighs in to steel only one-tenth in comparison, but has a third of its strength. “The greatest potential for fuel reduction is to save the car in the weight. Wood is ideal,” says Müller.

In addition, the material offers advantages, if you look at the CO2 footprint of a car over the entire life cycle from production through operation to scrapping or recycling.

While for the production of a cubic meter of aluminum 22 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) are released, the wood production of just 150 kilograms. Especially in Germany, whose area is about one-third of the forest would have to of wood are also not transported very far, which means further savings potential. In addition, no waste products arise during the production of wood – in contrast to Aluminium, steel or plastic.

…and its disadvantage

That wood is used in spite of the many good features so far only marginal in the automotive industry, was mainly due to a lack of knowledge of the behavior of the material. Exactly want to change Müller and his Team now. “In about four years, we want to provide information that can be included with the car manufacturers in the advanced developments of the cars,” says the materials scientist. In the long term, the share of wood in the total vehicle will amount to about five percent.

Magna Steyr

Concept Car Cult

For the wood analysis was developed at Boku in Vienna, the concept car Cult (Cars ‘ Ultralight Technology), with a real-world Crash can be simulated. The car has the dashboard, rear seat wall and floor made of fiber sheets, a layer or plywood. However, there are no conventional boards, but veneer layers of two millimetres thickness, which are glued to each other and in addition with a thin aluminum or plastic layer. According to Müller, it is important to combine proven technologies useful with the wood, in order to develop production concepts for the car manufacturer to implement.

Although wood is a natural product and the quality differs from tree to tree, the strict specifications and tolerances of the auto industry is no more a hurdle. There has long been in the wood industrial machines that can sort the wood according to specific material properties. “X-ray technology to be applied, vibration measurements, sound-processing times, microwave engineering and optical Sensors,” explains wood-specialist Muller.

In Finland, it is much more

The researchers from Vienna are not the only ones on the wrong track. The Finnish paper company UPM has developed together with the Helsinki Metropolia University of applied Sciences, the Biofore Concept Car. In the study dashboard, door panels and other components, manufactured from “bio-based materials are manufactured” as a thermally moldable birch plywood veneer or a composite material, the half of this is from renewable materials. According to RPM, the car weighs around 150 pounds less than vehicles of comparable size. A correspondingly low fuel consumption.

The Finns go one step further and have developed to the wood mobile the right, on wood-based diesel fuel. In the case of the combustion of 80 percent compared to conventional fuel, less greenhouse gases. It is made from so-called tall oil, a by-product of the manufacture of paper.

Sweden research on transparent wood

Researchers from the Royal Technical University in Stockholm, in turn, is able to produce transparent wood. For this, the researchers removed only the brown one molecule of Lignin from the raw material and impregnated with a transparent Polymer, which led to a light transmittance of 85 percent. Thus, the transparent wood as the sides or the windscreen is unsuitable, but could be used for example as a diaphragm for the interior lights.


Concept Car Toyota Setsuna

While the developer racks on the way to the series use of timber for Seating, in doors, under-floor components, or crash elements of the thickness of the boards need to drill, the creators of show cars much easier. Toyota, for example, showed that the wood Trend is picking up, now at the design week in Milan, the concept car Setsuna, a mainly wood-built two-seater. Birch, Japanese cedar for the exterior, cypress for the steering Wheel – and all without the need for nails and glue together, but only by a high level of Carpentry skill. Such woods series cars will be guaranteed to never – but in the right direction.

Grouped: wood could in the future in the automotive industry play an important role. Compared to other materials, it has materials of great advantages: It is lighter than aluminum and is more environmentally friendly to manufacture, process and dispose of. Its crash safety is still being researched.

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