June 30, 2005

Mercedes-Benz incorporates banana fibres into A-Class

Stuttgart, Germany – Mercedes-Benz has pioneered the first use of natural fibres as an exterior car component in its three-door A-Class, a compact model sold in several global markets. Although the company has used natural fibres such as flax, hemp, sisal and coconut in its interiors for many years, the abaca banana plant fibres used in the underbody cover for the spare tire compartment mark a first for exterior use.

DaimlerChrysler research engineers patented a mixture of polypropylene thermoplastic and abaca fibres in 2002. The fibres are from the abaca, a relative of the banana, and are supplied by Manila Cordage, a Philippine producer of semi-finished materials. The components are manufactured by Swiss automotive supplier Rieter.

Natural fibres protect resources and are renewable. The production of glass fibres, which are almost completely replaced by the natural fibres in the cover of the tire compartment, is very energy-intensive. With abaca fibres, up to 60 per cent of the energy is saved, and the waste material that is a byproduct of fibre production can be used as organic fertilizer.

Abaca fibres are 1.5 to 2.7 metres long, have a very high tensile strength, are rot-resistant and are traditionally used in ropes. The abaca banana trees are cultivated in the Philippines. In a public-private partnership project between DaimlerChrysler, Hohenheim University and the German Investment and Development Association, the tropical rain forest is being reforested with various plants under a canopy of trees, with the inclusion of the abaca banana bush in its natural habitat. The abaca processing also creates jobs for local farmers. This year, the JEC Group (Journals and Exhibitions on Composites) presented its JEC Award in the category of Ground Mass Transportation to DaimlerChrysler, Rieter and Manila Cordage for their innovative use of the fibres in car underbody protection.

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