Even though the i-unit made a funky debut last year, Toyota says it is adapting the fiber body part technology to make interior parts.

The i-unit body is made from kenaf fiber, which Toyota calls "carbon neutral." In other words, the carbon dioxide released by burning the plants to make the parts is offset by the carbon dioxide the plant absorbs while growing. Bioplastics made from plants are used in some applications such as the floor mats and spare tire cover on the Raum compact car in Japan.

Toyota says it wants to replace every plastic component in a car with a plant-based material. Mitsubishi is also working on a tailgate interior surface made from bamboo panels, and a bio-fabric floor mat is also being developed.

Officials say production costs for plant-based materials can be up to 30 percent higher than conventional plastics but may become cheaper as petroleum-based products become more expensive.

In other applications, Honda may be the first to offer bio-fabric seats in a future fuel-cell vehicle. Officials admit potential problems with durability, sun exposure and rough texture.

[Source: Japan Times]

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