Tier I auto parts manufacturer Faurecia (Paris, France) and Japanese plastics giant Mitsubishi Chemical (Tokyo) have inked a partnership to co-develop and produce polybutylene succinate (PBS) bioplastics for commercial-scale application in automotive interiors by 2014.
The bioplastics will be supplied from a joint venture with PTT (Chatuchak, Thailand;) that plans to start up a PBS production facility with an annual production capacity of 20,000 tons in Thailand, targeting commencement of production by 2015. Faurecia had been conducting research into bioplastics derived from 100% natural materials since 2006 (through its BioMat project) prior to entering into the exclusive industrial partnership. Faurecia plans to develop a full range of auto-grade bioplastics, which are set to see a boom in adoption in the 2015 to 2020 period.
The environmental constraints associated with vehicle weight reduction and regulations intended to increase the recyclability of materials used in the automotive industry (85% in Europe by 2015) call for increased use of new materials derived from natural resources, which will ultimately replace petroleum-based plastics according to the partners. This initiative also aims to ensure that the materials used have a positive impact on the product lifecycle (from initial extraction through to end-of-life).
Essentially, the objective of the joint Faurecia-Mitsubishi Chemical program is to develop a polymer that can be used in mass-production for automotive interior parts. The joint development will start by modifying Mitsubishi Chemical’s biomass-derived GS Pla poly-butylene succinate (PBS) and ultimately target 100% derivation from bio sources. BioAmber will be the supplier of bio-based succinic acid to the partnership.
Under the terms of the agreement, Faurecia will hold exclusive rights to automotive applications of the specific polymers jointly developed under this project. This project builds on several years of development work carried out jointly with BioAmber. Nicolas Pechnyk, Vice President Engineering for Faurecia Interior Systems, explains: “This strategic agreement with Mitsubishi Chemical will make Faurecia the first automotive equipment supplier to mass produce a 100% bio-based plastic [part].
We are confident about the future of this technology as a substitute for petroleum-based plastic components; indeed, it is one of the main thrusts of our strategic initiative ‘bioattitude’.