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10th August 2018, Nanterre

Hemp gains for Faurecia

Faurecia plans to triple the production of its NAFILean lightweight hemp-based biocomposites in the next three years, as they are increasingly adopted by OEMs. The company has recently developed new data to show the significant energy and environmental benefits NAFILean provides, in addition to the positive impact on agriculture.

Following their initial registration with Peugeot PSA, the biomaterials are now being used in the car parts of six OEMs, Faurecia reports. One of the latest is Byton’s electric SUV, confirming that the materials are well-positioned to play a role in the next generation of vehicles.

Faurecia’s work on NAFILean began ten years ago with an effort to identify the ultimate material that could be used for light weight car components delivering a positive environmental impact. © Faurecia

“Faurecia’s work on NAFILean began ten years ago with an effort to identify the ultimate material that could be used for light weight car components delivering a positive environmental impact,” explains Pierre Demortain, general manager at Faurecia Automotive Performance Materials. “The material had to meet stringent performance characteristics and be suitable for “plug and play” implementation in the manufacturing process.

“Hemp was selected from more than 20 agricultural candidates based on its good technical performance, renewability as a grown fibre and low water consumption. It also replenishes the soil for other subsequent crops, does not require pesticides and is not subjected to externally-influenced price variation.”

NAFILean is a recyclable lightweight composite composed of 20% natural fibres that are substituted for glass fibres in the injection moulding of structural parts for instrument panels, door panels and centre consoles.  

Following a two-year period to develop the material and an additional year for the initial OEM registration with PSA, the first commercial success was achieved in 2013 in door panels for the Peugeot 308. The 1.2 kg of the material delivered a 25% weight reduction and a 25% environmental impact reduction, figures validated through an ISO 14040-44  Norm Life Cycle Assessment covering the material’s production, use and end of life.

“One difference with previous attempts to introduce biomaterials into cars is the added value Faurecia can provide,” says Demortain. “The involvement of a Tier 1 supplier in the material’s production ensures that the innovation is relevant when integrated at the vehicle subsystem level.”

Following the initial commercial application, NAFILean is starting to become a new automotive standard, having been adopted by OEMs on a series of vehicles, including:

  • The Peugeot 308 and DS7 Crossback.
  • The Alfa Romeo Giulia.
  • Jaguar Land Rover’s Grand Evoque and E-Pace
  • The Renault Megane

Calculations made using accepted lightweight benefit figures show that the serial implementation of the lightweight biomaterials on high-volume vehicles will produce significant environmental benefits.

The recent award for the use of NAFILean in serial production of the electric SUV for the Californian/Chinese company FMC Byton Concept highlights the benefit for next generation vehicles – the savings of one kilogram of weight contributes to three miles of increased battery autonomy.

The hemp compound is openly brought to the market through APM (Automotive Performance Materials), a joint venture between Faurecia and an agricultural cooperative in France’s Burgundy region. The 50-50 JV provides Faurecia with a reliable supply and the freedom to operate on the market and further leverage and deploy its innovation capabilities. 

In addition to automotive biomaterials, other parts of the hemp plant are also the source of co-products such as building insulation and food oils. Land-use and food diversion concerns aare also not an issue in the growing of hemp – it would be possible to supply all of the OEMs in Europe on only 5,000 hectares of land.

“Hemp production and NAFILean appear well-positioned for future growth,” says Demortain. “The biomaterials are being reviewed by OEMs for additional vehicles and production will triple in the next three years. Faurecia teams are at work on new generations of NAFILean as well as on efforts to increase the percentage of biomaterials in composites. These include bio-sourced resins together with the natural fibre reinforcements – a 100% petro-free material already available for future industrialisation.”

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