Ocean-friendly Volvo XC60 highlights importance of industry-wide collaboration

Ocean-friendly Volvo XC60 highlights importance of industry-wide collaboration

May 29, 2019
Marcia González

Few car-makers have been more vocal than Volvo when it comes to plastic pollution in our oceans. In fact, the Swedish auto giant has already gone on record to state its intention to use at least 25% recycled plastic in its cars from 2025 onwards

Last year, Volvo presented a glimpse of a more sustainable future with the presentation of the XC60 T8 plug-in hybrid, which made its debut during the Ocean Summit, at the Volvo Ocean Race Gothenburg Stopover. While this specially built version of the XC60 looked almost identical to the production model, more than 60kg of its plastic parts were replaced with parts made of recycled materials.

Some of the 170 recycled components include the tunnel console that runs down the center of the front seats, made from renewable fibers and plastics from discarded fishing nets and maritime ropes.

The seats are sewn from two different kinds of textiles, both of which are made from recycled plastic bottles. The vacuum reservoir under the bonnet – which helps to regulate the turbo engine pressure – is made of recycled fabrics from airbags. The plastic coating is taken from the fabric left over when airbags are cut out. It’s then broken down and reconstituted to make hard plastic.

The hood absorber that sits under the bonnet and helps to absorb sound is made from used Volvo car seats. The plastic foam inside the seats is taken, processed and formed into a sound absorber layer.

The demo XC60 shows the potential to create a true circular economy. With this sustainable approach, industries make greater use of recycled plastic instead of virgin plastic, which puts value on used plastics and  means less of it is likely to end up in landfills or polluting our oceans.

Two Plastic Free World Conference & Expo 2019 speakers, Bcomp and Axion Polymers, played their part in this ocean-friendly concept. Thanks to Bcomp’s powerRibs reinforcement technology, ocean plastic properties can be boosted using natural fibers not only to be used in a wide range of semi-structural interior parts, but simultaneously cutting up to 50% weight when compared to current standard engineering plastics.

“We were very grateful for the support of Bcomp in the production of our recycled plastics demonstrator XC60 vehicle,” a Volvo spokesperson stated. “As we start to deliver on our 2025 vision, sustainable materials and technologies such as powerRibs will be essential in both replacing primary plastics and reducing weight at the same time.”

“We were excited to collaborate with Volvo Cars to enable the upcycling of ocean plastic through the use of high tech, renewable powerRibs,” commented Dr Per Mårtensson, CSO at Bcomp. “The project is closely aligned with our vision to provide high-performance, sustainable solutions for lightweighting.”

Axion Polymers, meanwhile, supplied its 100% recycled polymer from end-of-life vehicles for the project. Axpoly PP polymer was blended 50:50 with a polypropylene recycled from packaging waste to achieve a specification required by vehicle designers for reuse in new vehicle components. The initial sample of this plastic blend was used successfully to mold both internal and external body on the car.

Axion’s strong technical expertise and continual development of high-quality recycled polymer grades that can replace virgin plastics in new cars supports the automotive industry in its transition from a ‘linear’ to a circular economy.

“Seeing the ‘first adopters’ take the lead in such an important market as motor vehicles really gives me hope that the problem of ocean plastic pollution can be solved by taking such positive action for change,” enthused Keith Freegard, associate consultant at Axion Polymers.

Plastic Free World Conference & Expo 2019 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 peter@trans-globalevents.com

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