The outgoing Toyota Sai model in Japan already had an impressive 60% of its interior parts made from plant-based plastics. However, the difficulties in making plant-based plastics with sufficient durability had always precluded their use in seat coverings and floor mats.
The latest iteration of the Sai Hybrid changes all that. Toyota announced on October 11th that with the introduction of this model on November 1st, it will have reached 80% of the interior parts being made from plant-based plastics.
The key has been Toyota’s 4-year-long R&D program run in conjunction with Toyota Tsusho. The result is a plant-based plastic that has the requisite durability and wear-resistance to be used for seat covers and floor mats. By using plant-based plastics Toyota has been able to reduce the amount of fossil fuel oil used in the manufacture of the vehicle by 30%.
The new plastic is made using material from the humble sugar cane and is on par with traditional oil-based plastics both in terms of durability and cost. Chief Engineer Toru Kato from the Product Development Department is quoted as stating, “We want to see increased use of this material in other mass-market vehicles.”
Considering cost and quality are no different to traditional plastics, it is hard to see why this would not be achievable.
Time to buy some sugar cane futures, methinks.