Since 2013, Mazda Motor Corp. and Mitsubishi Chemical Corp. have been developing a range of new materials for use on vehicle interiors and exteriors, but now the companies' bio-based polycarbonate resin called Durabio — made from plant-derived isosorbide — is being used to mold large exterior components.
Take the 2017 Mazda CX-5 compact crossover, for example, where the Japanese automaker placed Durabio in a front-and-center position on the front grille.
A spokesman for Mazda's team in Hiroshima, Japan, said that compared with conventional petrochemical-based plastics, Durabio exhibits "superior chemical resistance," enabling the front-end plastic part to withstand abrasive road debris.
The material also features "superior properties" compared with other bio-based plastics in areas like impact resistance, heat resistance and weathering, Mitsubishi Chemical Corp. said in a news release. Its transparency allows for a "mirror-like smooth surface" and vivid colors when pigments are added.
Durabio's hard surface and scratch resistance also eliminates the need for any coating process, reducing volatile organic compound emissions during the manufacturing stage, the company said.
"In terms of the surface design finish, we actually exceeded our goal and produced a finish of higher quality than traditional painted parts," Mazda's spokesman said in a Jan. 10 email interview.
Most of Mazda's vehicle models are already using the material, which was first used for an interior part on the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata and an exterior part on the Mazda CX-9 midsize crossover, the spokesperson said.
Durabio has also been used on various interior parts, ranging from gear shift covers and cup holder bezels to console side decorative panels; and exterior parts, such as C pillar garnishes, among other applications.
Additionally, in 2016, French automaker Renault used Durabio on the outer mask of the speedometer-tachometer combo for the dashboard of the Clio. In 2013, Japanese automaker Suzuki Motor Corp., which also partnered with Mitsubishi on the development of Durabio, used the bio-based plastic on the interior color panels of the Suzuki Hustler. Durabio was later used on interior color panels for Suzuki's 2015 Alto Lapin.