• Oct 6, 2011
The quest for ever-better lightweight manufacturing materials has led one electric vehicle builder to consider using woven bamboo fiber and vegetable resin in the place of costly carbon fiber or heavy fiberglass. The material is already being put to use in the surfboard industry, and Greg Abbott, a guy who spends his days converting internal-combustion vehicles to EVs, says that in the future, EV kits may have bodies that use bamboo for their body structure. Abbott says the material is strong enough to fall somewhere between fiberglass and carbon fiber on the strength-to-width ratio scale.

Bamboo has a number of fairly obvious appealing traits as a manufacturing material. The crop is quick-growing, stout and easily replenished, which makes it inexpensive as well. The plant is used in everything from flooring to textiles, paper and water processing, so the thought of turning to bamboo for car bodies isn't that far fetched.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 35 Comments
      Jake
      • 3 Years Ago
      Hmmm.... This all sounds good until pandas start eating your car.
      Autoblogist
      • 3 Years Ago
      Bamboo is amazing, I love this plant. It's uses seem limitless. It's naturally anti-microbial and it grows so fast, the supply will be easy to maintain. If this works and the weight savings are comparable to carbon fiber, costs could be significantly reduced.
        icon149
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Autoblogist
        The biggest problem with bamboo is also one of its biggest attributes. it grows so fast that it has little natural competition outside of Asia, it is a noxious weed that needs to be controlled if it is ever planted here in the USA. Ask anyone who has ever tried to clear bamboo from a yard, it's nearly impossible to get rid of, it's nearly impossible to contain, and it out competes everything. I hope we are smart enough not to let this run wild in climates where it will thrive... it'll destroy ecosystems where it doesn't belong.
          sqparadox
          • 3 Years Ago
          @icon149
          But you're problem is actually a solution. Giant Pandas remain an endangered species that eat only bamboo. Don't import bamboo to the US, import bamboo and Giant Pandas; solve two problem's in one. In case it isn't obvious, I'm being a somewhat sarcastic, but it does raise a serious question. The largest threat to Giant Pandas is loss of habitat. If bamboo is such an aggressive, hardy weed (and I'm not saying it isn't) why isn't it being grown in more places? Giant Pandas, Red Pandas, Bamboo Lemurs as well as several other species feed primarily on bamboo and most of them are classified somewhere in the threatened area of conservation status (vulnerable-critically endangered). Why aren't we planting bamboo forests for their economic uses (of which there are many besides this) and bringing rest of the native ecosystem with it? If an ecosystem that consists primarily of an extremely fast growing and hardy weed is disappearing, and thus threatening the species specialized to consume it, why aren't we expanding it? Am I missing something? Are their particular sub-species of bamboo that are good for industrial use but unsuitable for the animals adapted to eating bamboo? Is it fear that the bamboo would simply grow out of control, or fear of contaminating outside ecosystems? Has creating such an industrialized self-sustaining ecosystem simply never been considered; or been considered too costly? Or is it simply that the Chinese government will not sell Giant Pandas, only lease them (though I'm not sure this is still the case)? I realize it isn't nearly as simple as I stated above, but why are we letting these species die when it seems like, under the proper conditions, giving them more space is a win-win?
      Abe
      • 3 Years Ago
      greenlightsurfsupply.com ;)
      Kyle
      • 3 Years Ago
      the future is in carbon nanotubes. one could, theoretically use the frame and body as an ultracapacitor in order to store energy, eleminating the need for an additional battery or capacitor.
        BimmerZimmer
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Kyle
        As someone who has done research on the use of carbon nanotubes to enhance energy density of ultracapacitor electrodes, I'm curious how exactly you would suggest this work? Sounds exciting, but I don't see it.
      finzenchrome
      • 3 Years Ago
      Now if we could just genetically engineer bamboo to grow into the shape of body panels...
      Jason
      • 3 Years Ago
      What about stiffness to weight ratio? Strength to weight is good and all, but stiffness is the main concern when building vehicle chassis, especially high performance...which is why fiberglass lost out to CF as the best material for monocoque construction.
        mark3dyn
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Jason
        A quick search shows Bamboo stiffness at about 2.9 Million PSI, verses standard modulus carbon at around 30 Million. So, 1/10 the stiffness, and I would imagine with resin, the density of bamboo might be slightly less. If fabrics are made, and laminated like carbon is, the labor costs would be similar, but you would probably have to use more bamboo, thus higher labor costs. I like the idea, but I don't think it would be the ultimate material for all cars.
          Ashton Martin
          • 3 Years Ago
          @mark3dyn
          IThe key cost of carbon fiber is making the material into fiber. I am betting that bamboo would not cut it in terms of strength. http://gizmodo.com/5843276/why-is-carbon-fiber-so-expensive
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
      sparrk
      • 3 Years Ago
      that's good, if your batteries run out and you're left stranded in the cold , you can use the car to make a fire , it will keep you warm and you can send smoke signals.
      FriskyDingo
      • 3 Years Ago
      This is a nifty idea. Sounds like a pretty strong material, and if it's cheap to implement, then I'm all for it. I love carbon fiber, but it's hideously expensive, and it's become so trendy now that even if were cheap to manufacture, it'd still sell for a lot. I firmly believe material usage and construction will be some of the most important aspects of making future cars more efficient and possibly even more fun to drive as well. We all know how much of an exponential effect weight savings has.
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
      bluekurgan
      • 3 Years Ago
      Carbon fiber will hardly be THE material for cars and not for it's costs. You should ask why still there is no civil plane entirely build on carbon fiber.
        SheldonRoss
        • 3 Years Ago
        @bluekurgan
        The 787 is over 80% Carbon Fiber construction... Obviously things like engines and cables are metal.
      ShutoSteve
      • 3 Years Ago
      I like the idea.. Until I set my car to close to a fire, and it lights up like there's no tomorrow. Not to mention the splinters I'd get trying to do bodywork...
        Autoblogist
        • 3 Years Ago
        @ShutoSteve
        That's an easy fix, they can add fire retardants to the resin. But a more important question is, why are you parking your car close to a fire?
          FriskyDingo
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Autoblogist
          I was thinking the same thing, lol. This thread is awesome so far.
          BipDBo
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Autoblogist
          He's probably a Canadian hockey fan.
          ShutoSteve
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Autoblogist
          Cause I'm a pyro. Secretly, everyone's a bit of a pyro.
          H.E. Pennypacker
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Autoblogist
          (because he's an idiot)
          ShutoSteve
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Autoblogist
          I am Canadian, but I positively hate hockey.
        Krishan Mistry
        • 3 Years Ago
        @ShutoSteve
        It would probably be treated with fireproof substances, they wont sell a bonfire car.
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