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Flax focus at Jaguar LandRover

Over the past 14 years, CO2 emissions in Jaguar LandRover (JLR) vehicles have fallen by an average of 40% as a result of the introduction of aluminium replacing steel parts, but at the same time, the cost of these parts has doubled. 

To introduce carbon fibre composites would achieve an estimated further 30% in weight savings, but at ten times the cost, said Dee Harris, a senior engineer for the UK-headquartered car manufacturer at the first Bio!Car conference, which took place in Stuttgart, Germany, from September 24-25. 

“It’s something we have to address because the target in the EU is to get emissions down to 95g of CO2 per kilogram and the penalty that will be imposed is €95 per extra gram,” she explained. “This means that if you were to sell a million cars that are 10g over the emissions limit, you would face a fine of €95 million.” 

 

In addition to exploring the options for carbon fibre composites – a carbon-based car roof module will be the first to go into series production – JLR has been investigating the potential of natural fibres and has been working with Composites Evolution as part of the Carbio composites consortium funded by Innovate UK.

Gareth Davies of Composites Evolution said that in the area of the lightweighting of vehicles resulted in issues with noise, vibration and harshness (NVH), which it is believed flax fibres can go a certain way to solving.

Composites Evolution’s Biotex flax/PP has already been used to create prototype interior door modules for both the Land Rover Defender and Jaguar XF models, offering a lightweight, stiff component. The construction of the hybrid biocomposite part enabled fixing points to be moulded-in, removing common failure points.

The performance of the parts was compared to current production parts and the biocomposite Defender front door module was approximately 60% lighter than the current steel part at the same stiffness, while the Jaguar XF rear door module was 35% lighter than the current glass filled PP component for the same thickness. The part also passed the environmental tests laid down by JLR.

A composite roof module for JLR has now been developed, consisting of alternating layers of carbon and commingled flax materials.
This is to be showcased in prototype by JLR in November this year, following crash testing and other vehicle-level tests.

“Flax and carbon may seem like strange bed fellows, but with the addition of layers of flax materials between the carbon we can considerably increase the damping properties,” said Davies. “The results of Carbio have resulted in a part that reduces costs and weight with the same bending stiffness but hugely improved damping.”
The resin system that has been developed to make the part is also 42% based on cashew nut oil.