As the issue of sustainable mobility gains momentum, the automotive industry is accelerating its efforts to develop appropriate solutions.
For Röchling Automotive, part of Röchling SE & Co. KG of Mannheim, Germany, this includes exploring the potential of bio-based plastics as an alternative to conventional plastic materials.
According to Hanns-Peter Knaebel, chairman and CEO of Röchling Automotive, the company has been focusing on optimizing bioplastics for the car industry for more than 10 years. He believes that demand will rise sharply in the coming years and, as "global plastic pioneers," rather than waiting for further regulatory measures, the company has determined that now is the time for action.
Röchling said it has developed a new material called Röchling-BioBoom, which has a renewable content of at least 90 percent. The material is from a patented polylactic acid-based family of biopolymers available in three standard types: for use in interior, exterior and under-the-hood applications. However, it can also be tuned to meet a customer's individual needs and requirements.
"With our bioplastics, we are bringing a sustainable solution to the market that originates from a completely self-controlled supply chain — from renewable resources to the automobile manufacturers," Knaebel said.
According to Röchling, it is not enough to focus on a car's emissions during its use, but instead to look at the entire value chain, in what is called a "well-to-wheel" approach. The new biopolymer family allows greenhouse gas emission savings that are about 70 percent higher than those of polypropylene and almost 90 percent higher than those of nylon 6. This means that if the proportion of petrochemical plastics in a midsized car is replaced by Röchling Automotive's bioplastics, 515 kilograms of CO2 emissions can be saved per vehicle production.
"The new materials are a total and reliable alternative to our classic materials," Knaebel said.
"We have set ourselves the goal of becoming the leading supplier of bioplastics and recycling materials in the automotive industry by 2035 at the latest. This means that we will noticeably increase our development activities in this area."
According to the company, customers can be assured that all certifications and traceability are available to ensure full transparency. It has set up its own supply chains for the new material.
Components are subject to continuous quality control, from raw material production stage to the finished product. Röchling-BioBoom is REACH-compliant and has successfully completed a life cycle assessment. Bonsucro, a London-based nonprofit that promotes the use of sustainable sugarcane, has certified the product as sustainable.