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Honda Develops New Bio-Fabric for Interiors; To Be Applied to Fuel-Cell Vehicles First

Car seat with the new bio-fabric and a spool of bio-fabric yarn.

Honda Motor has developed a bio-fabric—a plant-based fabric with excellent durability and resistance to sunlight—for use as a surface material in automobile interiors. Bio-fabric offers the benefit of offsetting CO2 emissions produced during incineration in the disposal stage with CO2 absorption that occurs during the growth stage of the plants that are used as raw materials.

Despite this benefit, plant-based fabric has not been used commercially for automobile interiors due to concerns about limited durability and aesthetic issues.

The new bio-fabric developed by Honda overcame such issues, and achieved a soft and smooth material appropriate for the surface of automobile interiors, with high durability and excellent resistance to sunlight to prevent color fading after prolonged use.

In addition to seat surfaces, this bio-fabric can be used for the interior surface of the doors and roof and for floor mats. Honda will first introduce bio-fabric interiors with the company’s all-new fuel cell vehicle which will be introduced to the market within next three years, then try to gradually expand the application to new models from 2009 and beyond.

A polyester material called PPT (polypropylene terephthalate) is the basic material of the bio-fabric. PPT is produced through polymerization of 1-3PDO (propanediol), which is produced from corn, and terephthalic acid, a petroleum-based component. In order to improve stability as a fabric, Honda applied a multi-thread structure for the fiber.

Based on the concept of LCA (Life Cycle Assessment), Honda has been striving to reduce CO2 emissions throughout the entire life cycle of an automobile—from production and usage to disposal. Due to the use of a plant-based ingredient in the production of raw materials, the newly developed bio-fabric will enable Honda to reduce energy used during the production process by 10–15% compared to the production of petroleum-based polyester materials.

The use of a plant-based ingredient can reduce CO2 emissions by 5 kg per automobile. Further, the new bio-fabric does not require changes in existing fabric production processes, and is suitable for mass production.

Honda is displaying automobile interior components using the newly developed bio-fabric at the JSAE Automotive Engineering Exposition, being held at Pacifico Yokohama, 24–26 May.


C. Smith

Ever hear of cotton?


My guess is that cotton wouldn't hold up that well for the uses required.


C. Smith, I think the reason why they do not use cotton is primarily due to its unsuitability for heavy-duty fabrics and price limitations;

Also, it is more difficult to keep clean and is easily ripped or torn. I think there are also problems with flammability that make it unattractive for use in cars, but I'm only guessing on that one.

This is good, though. The less petroleum used equals more hedging against prices, and less CO2 produced is better for both local air quality and the larger issues of global warming and climate change.


Most importantly, however, it will look really great in this...


Wow. Honda's really turning the recent awareness-shift to the media's version of sustainability into a coup. Simple choices like this are turning them into eco-friendly darlings, and making Detroit look like shit in comparison.

My hat's off to them.


cotton is generally a poor fabric for applications like car seats because it absorbs water easily, stains worse, doesn't retain shape, etc.

The "bio-fabric" described has properties much more like other synthetic polyesters. It should be pointed out, however, that Honda didn't develop the fiber itself--the development and commercialization of corn-based PPT was done by DuPont. They market it under the "Sorona" brand name.


I wonder if Honda took into account the fossil fuel based fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides used to produce the corn. This should be taken into account unless the corn is organic. Hate to be the skunk at the picnic, but let's get real.


T, I think overall it would still be a net reduction in fossil fuels consumed and CO2 emitted.

Even though fuel, fertilizers, and chemical sprays are used to produce the corn, there are a lot of other and more severe ones used in the production of petroleum-based fibers. Overall, it's a net negative because you're eliminating those chemicals as well as the various treatments necessary to turn petroleum in to feedstock for synthetic fibers.

Plus, the corn used would have been grown anyway for another market; it's not likely that a significant amount of new corn production will be created to meet demand for the fiber.


andrew, you're not skunking up the picnic, you're just taking into account something that is often forgotten in discussions of ethanol, etc. that is, the huge amounts of fossil fuels that are consumed in producing these "alternative" sources. it's almost impossible to get away from carbon based fuel sources... even solar & wind generators are built in a factories whose electricity is coal fired, for example.

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