Carmakers are developing materials that are less harmful to humans and the environment.
The idea that cars are just good looking pieces of steel may start to fade as the growing pan-industrial focus on health and the environment boosts efforts to create cars that are better for humans and nature.
Carmakers are developing technologies to create lighter and stronger metal frames, with some introducing cars made of 100 percent aluminum. They are also trying to develop auto parts that are recyclable and less harmful to humans and the environment.
To bolster its image as an eco-friendly brand, Toyota is making efforts to reduce waste throughout the entire life of a vehicle, from development and production to customer use and disposal. The Japanese carmaker is incorporating recyclable materials into key auto parts such as the bumper, dashboard and doors. Floor mats are also part of efforts to make auto parts recyclable. The Prius uses a carbon-neutral plastic, extracted from plants, in seats and floor mats. The automakerâ€™s plan is to make 95 percent of Priusâ€™ auto parts recyclable in several years.
Peugeot, from France, is also using environment-friendly materials such as wood and cotton in its cars. The Peugeot 207 has side mirrors and door panels made of such materials. One Peugeot vehicle has an average of 10 kilograms (22 pounds) of eco-friendly materials. The Ademe, or Environment and Energy Management Agency of France, ranked some Peugeot vehicles as emitting the lowest carbon dioxide levels in the world.
Mercedes-Benz S-Class vehicles are made of 27 different types of environmentally-friendly materials. They have seats made of a renewable material called natural latex and a door made of coconut fiber.
Carmakers are also trying to make their cars lighter. A lighter car has higher fuel efficiency, which reduces carbon emissions.
The frames of some Audi vehicles are made of an aluminum material called ASF, developed by the German carmaker. The Audi TT, equipped with an ASF frame, can save at least 16 percent of fuel compared with the models not equipped with an ASF frame.
Jaguarâ€™s all-new XJ is also covered with an aluminum material developed by the British carmaker. It has reduced the weight of the car by 150 kilograms, compared to cars of the same class made by other carmakers.
Mitsubishi made the roof of its new vehicle, the New Outlander, out of aluminum. And BMW is using aluminum frames and suspension in all of its cars.
The new materials used by some carmakers are designed for safety. Volkswagen created a multilayered bumper made of special materials such as foam rubber to minimize the impact on pedestrians in a collision.
Other materials are designed for comfort. Nissan is using materials to complement the senses. Nissanâ€™s 370Z sports car has silky smooth fabrics that are placed on the center panels and arm rest.
Volvo said it is minimizing allergy-causing substances or toxic materials in the interior of its vehicles. Associations for people suffering from asthma and allergies have since recommended Volvoâ€™s S80, V70, XC70 and XC60 to its members.
Local carmakers are trying to catch up. Hyundaiâ€™s Eco-Technology Research Center, opened in 2005, is tasked with developing eco-friendly and recyclable car materials. Its i-flow concept car, revealed early this year, features a polyamide material that consists of up to 60 percent renewable raw materials.
Renault Samsung was the first among local carmakers to put an aluminum hood on a midsized car. The hood is designed to make the vehicle lighter, improve fuel economy and reduce carbon emissions.