Composites Today

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Sustainable flax fibre composites for automotive interiors

Swiss sustainable lightweighting company Bcomp announced that Eberspächer, a Tier 1 supplier, has developed bus A/C covers using its natural fibre composites technology. It is a bold push towards the use of more sustainable materials in mass transport applications and closely follows Bcomp’s successful entry into large-scale production of automotive interior parts. The part was exhibited at Busworld Europe 2023, from 7-12 October, as part of the Eberspächer stand.

Eberspächer manufactured innovative prototype panels using Bcomp’s ampliTex™ technical fabric, intending to gauge interest among Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs). The composites panels use a vinyl ester resin infusion with an in-mould transparent gelcoat finish. This means that the interesting weave of the flax-based ampliTex™ is visible. The sustainable natural fibre materials used to produce the prototypes will be the same that go into the production covers for interested Eberspächer customers.

 If any OEMs or end customer express interest during or after the Busworld event, a rigorous trial phase will follow. Some of these panels will be installed in buses operating in diverse environmental conditions ranging from the extreme climates in winter and summer testing. Successful performance evaluations will pave the way for series approval and full-scale manufacturing.

The collaboration was initiated by an Eberspächer student proof-of-concept project from the Technical School for Wood Technology in Stuttgart, Germany. The challenge was to find an environmentally responsible alternative to glass-fibre-reinforced plastic for bus A/C covers. Flax-based natural fibre composites emerged as the preferred material, of which Bcomp is a global leader.

ampliTex™ is a proprietary technical fabric, made from European-grown flax plants, that is frequently used as a sustainable alternative to carbon fibre and fibreglass. It has been well-proven in body panels for demanding motorsport applications and is quickly finding its way into mass-produced road cars. It can be found as an optional interior material on the new Volvo Cars EX30. It harnesses the natural properties of flax to produce lightweight high-performance parts with a unique aesthetic, defined by natural beauty. Depending on the application, these renewable material solutions achieve similar or superior stiffness and weight compared to carbon or glass fibre while heavily cutting CO2 emissions. 

Paolo Dassi – Marine and Industry Manager at Bcomp, commented: “This project with Eberspächer marks an exciting new chapter in our journey. Mass transport applications like this innovative bus A/C cover reinforce our technologies’ potential to replace conventional materials at scale. It also signals our continued growth and expansion into critical markets. As industries increasingly seek out sustainable materials, we are ready to meet the demand with our flax-based composites that offer lightweighting performance without environmental compromise.”