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How beechwood trees can help create a climate neutral car

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The automotive industry is no exception, as it strives to embrace a circular economy and replace petrochemical-based plastics with more sustainable alternatives.

Fortunately, years of research have yielded promising results, and innovation is evident in many supply chains. In the automotive industry, discarded beech trees have the potential to get us closer to building a climate neutral car.

Solid wood from sustainably managed forests is poised to revolutionize the manufacturing of rubber and plastic parts but also automotive textiles and coolants, usually made from fossil materials.

The world’s first biorefinery for this sustainable material is being constructed in Germany.

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The wood used in production is sourced from local sustainably managed beechwood forests, ensuring biodiversity and the natural ecosystem’s conservation. All wood used is fully traceable and supported by a verified third-party chain of custody and has relevant industry certificates.

One of the products from the biorefinery is a Renewable Functional Filler, which serves as an essential, sustainable component in various applications such as plastic interiors, bumpers or weatherstrips. The second main product will be renewable glycols (bMEG), which help make automotive textiles, such as seat covers, seat belts and upholstery but also coolants more sustainable. A range of bio-based and CO2-optimized engine and battery coolants will soon be available

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As forest managers look to optimize the carbon captured by trees, they harvest older trees that have already absorbed enormous amount of CO2 from the atmosphere and that can only capture new carbon very slowly, if at all, in their more mature age. Carbon conversion in younger forests is much higher by comparison, especially during their main growing years.

Manufacturers will be able to replace the highly CO2-intensive fossil-based carbon black functional fillers and ingredients in battery coolants with the new wood-based alternatives that would continue to store the carbon once captured by the trees. Suppliers will be able to seamlessly integrate the new material into existing processes.  

Less weight

This new generation of biochemicals will not only significantly reduce the carbon footprint of a vehicle but some also offer additional properties, for example, reduced weight, adding significant value to electric vehicle drivers.

But more work is needed to establish a shared vision for sustainable materials throughout the entire value chain. Each step needs to follow the same net-zero logic and drive innovations at scale. Consumers, be it potential buyers of new vehicles or fleet managers who consider their next purchase may soon begin to prioritize vehicles built with a lower CO2 footprint and with “ingredients” from the renewable carbon and circular economy.

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