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Fuel Economy Could be Improved by Renewable Bamboo Composite

Renewable Bamboo Could Improve Vehicle Fuel Economy
Renewable Bamboo Could Improve Vehicle Fuel Economy

As automakers strive to improve the fuel economy of the vehicle fleet, a number of methods, from more-efficient powertrains to lightweight materials, have been applied.

Lightweight vehicle construction materials, such as aluminum, magnesium, and CFRP (carbon-fiber reinforced plastic), help to reduce weight and increase performance. Crystalline filaments of carbon embedded in resin, otherwise known as carbon-fiber, is both strong and light, and has been used for years in race cars and high-end sports cars. Today, it is also finding its way into mainstream vehicles, as well, because it also helps to improve fuel economy.

Carbon-fiber, however, does have its drawbacks, such as the fact that it is expensive and almost impossible to recycle. Unfortunately, carbon-fiber isn’t even close to being recyclable. Surfboard maker Gary Young believes there is an alternative that could serve multiple purposed in the automotive field. To make lightweight and strong surfboards, Young uses woven bamboo in place of carbon-fiber. The resulting composite material is light, just like carbon-fiber, but far cheaper. In an automobile application, this bamboo composite could be used in most places carbon-fiber would be used, improving fuel economy without increasing construction costs.

Aside from fuel economy improvements, effectively reducing carbon dioxide emissions, switching over to bamboo composites would have other environmental benefits. First, bamboo is renewable, growing so fast you can hear it growing, with some species growing as much as eight feet per day. After full maturity, two or three years, bamboo can be harvested and put to use. In bamboo composites, this would function well as a carbon-sequestration method, further reducing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.

Image © NatJLN

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