Spanish automaker SEAT, a part of the Volkswagen Group, is testing the use of rice husks, an unrecyclable bi-product of harvesting the grain, as a substitute material to plastic in the new Leon.
The new material is being tested within the liner of the boot lid, the boot floor and the cabin headliner and the current tests on the boot floor are substituting up to 20% of the plastic usually used for recycled rice husks instead, a material which is lighter than the polyurethanes and polypropylenes it replaces.
Unwanted rice husks are usually incinerated by their processor. SEAT is forecasting to recycle 12 000 tons of rice husk a year, which reduces the amount of global husk waste by 8% while creating a more circular economy.
Joan Colet, Interior Trim Development Engineer, SEAT says: “We are always working on finding new materials to improve our products, and in this sense, rice husks enable us to work on reducing plastics and petroleum-based materials.
“The parts are lighter, which means that we reduce the weight of the car, thus reducing our carbon footprint and we are also using a renewable material, promoting the circular economy and making a greener product.”
The current testing is analysing how much husk can be used so that technical and quality requirements are of the same standard as the original. The boot floor undergoes load tests in which it must withstand up to 100 kg concentrated on one small area to check its rigidity and strength. Thermal tests are also carried out in a climatic chamber to confirm its resistance to heat, cold and humidity.