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Lincoln to use wood-based fiberglass substitute in new MKX

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December 20, 2013

The 2014 Lincoln MKX will incorporate Cellulose Reinforced Polypropylene in its center con...

The 2014 Lincoln MKX will incorporate Cellulose Reinforced Polypropylene in its center console armrest

Usually when you hear about wood being used in a car's interior, it's a fancy solid hardwood used to class up the dashboard. On Ford's 2014 Lincoln MKX, however, a relatively new wood-based composite material will be used in place of heavier, less eco-friendly fiberglass.

The material, known as Cellulose Reinforced Polypropylene (and marketed as Thrive), incorporates cellulose fibers "extracted from trees grown in sustainably managed forests" instead of the traditional glass fibers. It reportedly offers tensile and impact strengths close to those of fiberglass, while also being about six percent lighter, having a lower carbon footprint, and utilizing more renewable ingredients.

The Ford Motor Company has used the material in prototypes before, but this is said to be its first application in a production vehicle. That said, it will be confined to a fairly small part of the car – the floor console armrest substrate, which is a structural component inside the center console armrest. If all goes well, however, it could be used more extensively in future models.

The Weyerhaeuser timber company and auto parts supplier Johnson Controls collaborated with the Ford-owned Lincoln Motor Company on the project.

Source: Lincoln Motor Company

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
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7 Comments

Lincoln has a LONG way to go until it can compete the likes of Cadillac and the big three German brands.

Richard J. Auchus
20th December, 2013 @ 03:02 pm PST

Which is relevant to the point of this article how, exactly, Richard?

Keith Reeder
21st December, 2013 @ 12:16 am PST

Composite sounds like the worst name that an environmentalist would like to hear about.

We walked in to vehicles of carbon fiber (a composite) and other "durable goods" that have nothing of ecological, nor of good. In fact, most are dangerously polluting like tires and other items that we would make all efforts to abolish to the list of components of the millions of cars that are dumped daily in this chaotic transit. This not have anything benefic for the population nor to the environment.

Sergius
23rd December, 2013 @ 06:58 am PST

@Richard J. Auchus,

Traditionally the German companies haven't done wood interiors all that well- their wood seems to look a lot like wood-effect plastic film such as that used on cheap furniture.- although admittedly better than the odd green-tinted wood-effect fascia trim on a Mk 1 Ford Focus Ghia I once owned.

Wood interiors is one of the few things we Brits tend to do better than most others, IMHO.

bergamot69
23rd December, 2013 @ 11:40 am PST

The only reason I can see Ford using this material is because it looks like wood. Fibreglass can't, so we have the carbonfibre look when appearance matters. Wood does look classy, but I can't see what enviro benefits there are. Fibreglass is just that, glass fibres and a resin. This wood version still has to use a resin, and the wood still needs to be grown and chopped down. So what are the benefits to the planet ?

Martin Hone
23rd December, 2013 @ 08:06 pm PST

Seems many of the posters didn't read the article or comprehend what it is about.

It is all in the name.

Cellulose Reinforced Polypropylene.

Cellulose has little to do with a wood-grain type look, or wood interiors (oh, note that most "Wood" interior material is actually mostly(by mass and volume) RESIN.). It is merely the fibres within wood (and other plants) which provides the tensile strength of wood in nature and can be used for engineered materials in the future.

Don't be offended by the term composite, a TREE is composed of a composite, containing cellulose (fibre) and lignin(matrix). Bone too (as in the bone in your leg) is a composite of collagen (fibre) and hydroxyapatite(matrix).

Polypropylene is a Thermoplastic which is recyclable.

Most of the Resins used in composites are thermosets, meaning that they can't be softened by heating (ie melted) due to the crosslinks, eliminating most recycling uses (though they can be incinerated and thereby provide energy in their demise, or pulverised and used in the plastics industry as a filler).

Using a thermoplastic allows (down) recycling, and reuse of the plastic once the car is scrapped.

Use of cellulose (if it actually has a higher tensile strength to glass will be interesting, sure it should have a lower density than glass.) as a renewable resource (processing may add to environmental cost though) saves using a non-renewable resource to make glass-fibres, and avoids the energy intensive polymers used to create carbon fibre etc...

It is about time to make larger-scale use of thermoplastics in the composite industry and if the fibre is a renewable resource and has better engineering properties (at least compared to fibreglass), it may be a good win. This may still not put the other reinforcing fibres out of business, as aramid and carbon fibre/nanotubes are likely to still be vastly stronger than cellulose when used in composites.

Good to see new engineering materials entering the mainstream.

MD
24th December, 2013 @ 03:37 am PST

Good post, info MD!!

To add Ford used Hemp Fibers to do the same things in the Model T so not really new.

Hemp is much stronger than pulp too just they made it illegal so Dupont wouldn't have to compete with it vs Dupont's new synthetic fibers then.

Not sure why anyone thinks composites are not environmentally great. They can be made from biomass, etc for the resins and sand, biomass for the fibers and all can be make with RE power.

To recycle just heat it up and use the gasses produced to make more resin or syn fuels, etc. Plus takes much less energy to make say composite cars, they last a very long time and as they weigh less they get 2x's the EV/Gas mileage.

So let's get hemp back into our cars, home heaters, power generators, clothing that cost a fraction of the things it replaces. And it grows like a weed ;))

jerryd
24th December, 2013 @ 06:16 am PST
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