Numerous manufacturers have begun using significant percentages of recycled materials to create various interior components for their vehicles. Now, Toyota has announced it's developed new and even more eco-friendly alternative that it plans to introduce throughout its product lines starting with the new 2011 Lexus CT200h. This revolutionary form of ecological plastic is based around the first use of a core element called bio-PET -- officially polyethylene terephthalate -- that was co-developed with the Toyota Tsusho Corporation. Unlike its conventional plastic counterpart, this ecological plastic substitutes the normal 30 percent monoethylene glycol ingredient with a biological raw material that's derived from sugar cane.
According to Toyota, in addition to reducing the overall need for petroleum during the manufacturing process and being significantly more carbon-neutral, this new-gen ecological plastic has several key advantages over existing bio-plastics and delivers at least parity with traditional plastics in functional areas like appearance, durability and heat resistance. Equally critical, Toyota says it will come close to matching per-component cost when used in high volumes. Although the first use of this bio-PET based ecological plastic is confined to the luggage compartment liner in the 2011 Lexus CT200h, Toyota plans to greatly expand both the breadth and scope of its application and will have at least one vehicle in production during 2011 that will have 80 percent of its interior panels made from the material.
Toyota began experimenting with various "greener" forms of plastics as early as 2000. In 2003, it became the world's first automaker to introduce it in a mass-production capacity in the domestic-market Raum minicar that had it floor mats and spare-tire cover made from a polyactic acid-based bio-plastic. Most recently, its Sai hybrid sedan that went on sale in Japan last December has 60 percent of exposed interior surfaces made of bio-plastic.