- Kyoto University, Research Institute for Sustainable Humanosphere

This supercar is built out of plant-based material

3w ago


Car enthusiasts in today's world are faced with numerous challenges, including rising fuel prices and the introduction of strict motoring regulations. Another issue is the pressure and criticism received from environmentalists who disapprove of burning fossil fuels and mining metals, particularly lithium.

Whatever you feel about that, one group of organisations believe they have created a solution to this problem. Behold, the Nano Cellulose Vehicle, a supercar concept with an exterior shell composed of lightweight and eco-friendly cellulose nanofibres (CNFs).

The bodywork of most cars is typically composed of metal, fibreglass or strong plastics, meanwhile exotic vehicles may also employ carbon fibre.

This new concept was a collaboration among 22 Japanese businesses, research organisations and universities, led by Kyoto University and the Japanese Ministry of the Environment.

Kyoto University, Research Institute for Sustainable Humanosphere

What are cellulose nanofibres?

The source material is derived from the cell walls of plants, so yes, the car's exterior is technically made from plants or recycled plant-based waste. Thin microscopic layers of plant fibre are peeled from wood and undergo costly refinement processes to create cellulose nanofibres. CNFs are already in use, being used in food packaging, electronic components and even disposable diapers. The CNF used in the Nano Cellulose Vehicle is said to have low linear heat expansion and high recyclability.

Due to its chemical structure, CNFs are reported to be up to five times stronger than steel and weigh just a fifth of it. There is a catch though: as of 2017, to produce a single kilogram of steel costs ¥100 ($0.0092 USD) while a single kilogram of carbon-fibre costs ¥3000 ($28) CNFs? ¥5000-10,000 ($46-92) per kilogram. Though this material may achieve wonders, it can cost up to 100 times more than steel.

Kyoto University, Research Institute for Sustainable Humanosphere

What does the Nano Cellulose Vehicle achieve?

The vehicle demonstrates that there are suitable alternatives out there to metals and plastics for a vehicle's bodywork. With the exception of the windows, lights and wheels, most of what you see is composed of CNFs. This allows for the vehicle's shell to be 50 per cent lighter and for the car's overall mass to be 10 per cent less than if it was made from conventional materials.

Kyoto University, Research Institute for Sustainable Humanosphere

Is there anything else you should know?

There is no revealed information on the drivetrain, performance or mechanical details of the vehicle, however, the lack of exhausts suggest it may be an all-electric car – but it does have a sleek lower grille and rear vents, suggesting it requires air for combustion. It gets even more hazy as one source suggests it may have a hydrogen fuel cell onboard. Regardless, one can still hope they will fit it with a smooth six or eight cylinder with a mild hybrid system.

You may also have noticed the lack of wing mirrors, which are replaced by what appear to be tiny rear-facing cameras along the roof. Their output is displayed on the screens either side of the gauge cluster screen. The interior itself is minimalistic and primarily consists of what appears to be Alcantara, some form of eco-friendly-material seats and polished wood, with woollen floor mats. My guess is that those five-petaled flowers that appear on trim are Sakuras, or Japan's national flower.

Kyoto University, Research Institute for Sustainable Humanosphere

Would you buy a plant-based car?

Thanks for reading and feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

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Comments (15)
  • It's striking!

    23 days ago
    2 Bumps
  • This is actual renewable stuff but... What about collisions,scratches...?

    22 days ago
    1 Bump
    • Great question! It’s five times stronger than steel which is both a good and bad physical property. It’s great because the vehicle will be a lot more difficult to dent but awful as...

      Read more
      18 days ago


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