Automakers suddenly have a hard-on for wood. Thanks to the neverending quest to make cars lighter and the pressure for more environmentally friendly manufacturing techniques, the ol' woody might be making a comeback of sorts.
Before you get your hopes up for the return of the Chrysler LeBaron K-platform woody droptop — I know you've been waiting patiently for that comeback, right? — there won't exactly be a flood of wood-trimmed cars hitting the streets soon. Instead, as Bloomberg reports, automakers are looking at using wood and wood-based materials in the body, interior (beyond the dash) and even as fuel.
The need to make vehicles lighter, the rising cost of energy and interest in renewable resources have caused automakers to look into wood again.
"The more expensive energy becomes, the more likely this type of trend will continue," said Joe Harmon, an industrial designer who made the wood-based Splinter super car in 2008. "Wood uses very little energy in manufacturing, especially when compared with aluminum, steel and carbon fiber" and "is our only naturally renewable building material."
This year at the Geneva Motor Show, Finnish papermaker UPM-Kymmene Oyj will show a wooden concept car that runs on fuel made from bark and branches. Ford is reportedly looking at using more wood in its interior components in the Lincoln MKX, and Renault and Daimler are exploring replacing some of its manufacturing materials with wood-based products.
Now, not to be a treehugger or anything, but if car companies start using wood in everything, won't that have some consequences on forestation? Could there be an eventual lumber shortage or some unforeseen environmental impact? It seems like for now wood is only being used in small quantities — and let's not forget cars are also made of a multitude of other materials not used 20 years ago — so maybe not currently, but I still wonder.
Photo via AP