Toyota Plans to Replace 20% of Plastics with Bioplastics

Oct 21, 2008
Takuya Otani, Nikkei Electronics
A spare tire cover made of polylactic acid for the Raum
A spare tire cover made of polylactic acid for the Raum
[Click to enlarge image]

Toyota Motor Corp plans to replace 20% (in mass) of plastics used for its automobiles with bioplastics by 2015.

The company made this announcement in a lecture titled "Expectations for Biomass-plastics from the Perspective of Customers" delivered at BioJapan 2008, which took place at Pacifico Yokohama in Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan from Oct 15 to 17, 2008.

Toyota first used bioplastics for its automobiles in 2003. Specifically, the spare tire cover and the floor mat of the Raum were made of a composite material of polylactic acid and kanaf.

"We have not used bioplastics for any of our cars since then," said Masatoshi Matsuda, SSE at the Material Engineering Division I of Toyota. "We are not ready to use more bioplastics in view of the balance between the cost and the performances such as properties and formability."

However, the company places high hopes on bioplastics in its efforts to accomplish the company-wide goal to reduce CO2 emissions. Technical breakthroughs to solve the problems regarding the heat resistance, formability, shock resistance and long-term reliability are essential to attain the 20% use ratio, Matsuda said. Measures against these problems are now being discussed at Toyota, he said.

At present, polypropylene (PP) accounts for slightly less than 50% of the total plastics used for Toyota's vehicles, Matsuda said. And the total use ratio of other main materials such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyurethane (PU) and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) reaches almost 80%.

Toyota intends to gradually replace these materials with bioplastics by 2015. The first replacement target will be the interior parts, Matsuda said.