Cultivating a sustainable future in automotive design

Cultivating a sustainable future in automotive design

March 28, 2019
Marcia González

Materials innovations for highly sustainable vehicles will be in abundance at Plastic Free World Conference & Expo 2019

With almost 100 speakers having confirmed their participation at the inaugural Plastics Free World Conference & Expo – to be held 27-28 June 2019 at the Kap Europa, Frankfurt Messe – there will be no shortage of ideas, technology and knowhow on-hand to guarantee a more than rewarding two days. This is notably the case in the automotive stream, in which keynote presentations from Volkswagen and Honda spearhead an enviable line-up of experts from fields such as biobased and natural fiber materials, alternatives to fossil fuel-based plastics, and recycling/recyclable solutions – all with the goal of creating a truly circular economy for the auto sector.

Plastics: good and bad
As negative a press as plastics are currently getting in the mainstream media, their positive environmental impact in the vehicle sector has undoubtedly been significant. Cars comprise an average 6-10% of plastics, or 105kg for a standard car – a figure that is expected to grow in the future. Reducing vehicle weight with lighter materials, such as plastic, is accepted as an effective way to reduce overall GHG emissions and lower fuel consumption. In fact, for every 10% in weight reduction in the vehicle, fuel economy can improve by as much as 5-7%, while 1kg in weight reduction can reduce 20kg of carbon emissions into the atmosphere. At the same time, plastics based on fossil fuels are a limited resource yet increasingly in demand by many sectors, hence why bio-solutions are coming to the fore. Biobased and natural fiber materials have so far found most use in the vehicle interior, for glove boxes, boot trims, seat liners, door components, etc, but can be found in applications such as sunroof frames. The next step is semi-structural applications.

At Plastic Free World Conference & Expo 2019, delegates will learn about these sustainable solutions which can ultimately help OEMs close the loop on a circular economy in the automotive sector. QMILK, for instance, offers a milk protein-based fiber that can be transformed into a bioplastic with enhanced flame retardancy. Bcomp’s natural fiber reinforcement product, powerribs, can lower interior vehicle weight by up to 60% compared to injection-molded plastic. Hemp fibers from HempFlax can supersede current plastics in terms of mechanical properties. Meanwhile, scientific research into nanocellulose, biopolyamids and more will also be presented from universities such as Sweden’s KTH, Finland’s VTT Technical Research Centre, Helsinki’s Metropolia University of Applied Sciences and Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute. And in between all of that you will also discover deployable automotive materials based on spider silk (AMsilk) and bamboo (Spectalite), to name just a few.

Keynote OEM presentations
Kicking off proceedings, though, will be Dr Christine Schütz from Volkswagen AG, who will consider the true meaning of ‘sustainable materials’ from the German vehicle maker’s perspective, particularly in the face of increasing demand for petrochemical plastics and the resultant challenges in terms of carbon footprint and utilization of waste products. Meanwhile, Julien Van Damme, manager of Environment and Safety Planning Office, Honda Motor Europe (pictured above), will debate whether or not the end-of-life vehicle directive has flattened the road to circular economy.

Further speaker updates, detailed speaker interviews and case studies will be published here over the coming weeks and months. But please note, delegates wishing to take advantage of the ‘super early bird discount’ should click here to receive a €300 discount as the offers ends very soon.

You will hear from dozens of materials innovators with solutions to create highly sustainable vehicles at Plastic Free World Conference & Expo 2019. The event will take place from Thursday 27 June to Friday 28 June, at the Kap Europa, Frankfurt Messe, Frankfurt, Germany. To register for this highly focused and solutions-driven event, please click here. For sponsorship and exhibition opportunities, please email

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