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BIOMOTIVE: the project taking a different approach to sustainability

UITP’s Umberto Guida explains how the BIOMOTIVE project is working to produce more bio-degradable vehicle parts in a bid to improve the overall sustainability of the transport sector.

BIOMOTIVE: where innovation meets sustainability

From the climate marches happening all over the world to the green new deal: now more than ever, the issue of sustainability is on the agenda, and it is there to stay. The impact of human activity on our planet is a priority for politicians, scientists, and businesses alike.

The commitment of businesses, authorities and individuals to fight climate change and sustainability seems stronger than ever before, and more and more companies are seeking to contribute to a greener, more sustainable way of doing business. While banning plastics, reducing waste and recycling materials weren’t hot topics two decades ago, nowadays these matters are standard good practice.

It is safe to say that the transport sector has played its part in contributing to our changing natural environment: transport accounted for 28 per cent of global final energy demand and 23 per cent of global energy-related CO2 emissions in 2014. Furthermore, emissions increased by 2.5 per cent annually between 2010 and 2015, and over the past 50 years the sector has witnessed faster emissions growth than any other. But like most other sectors, the transport sector is transitioning towards a greener character, with businesses, authorities and scientists constantly seeking new ways to make products and processes more sustainable. In the transport and automotive sector, too, sustainability has caught people’s attention.

The BIOMOTIVE project

An innovative initiative seeking to promote and enhance sustainability in the transport and automotive sector is the BIOMOTIVE project. Funded under the European Union’s H2020 programme, the BIOMOTIVE project aims to develop and produce new vehicle materials made largely from bio-based content that offers enhanced technical performance, an improved environmental profile and higher economic competitiveness.

BIOMOTIVE is a member of the Bio-based Industries Consortium (BIC), a non-profit organisation launched in Brussels in 2013. BIC represents the private sector in a public-private partnership with the European Commission, also known as the Bio-based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI JU). This public-private partnership aims to invest €3.7 billion in bio-based innovation between 2014 and 2020.

The BIOMOTIVE project has 16 members from all over Europe. The partners include research institutes, associations, universities and consultants. The project is coordinated by Selena, a Poland-based research institute. To adapt the design of the material to the real needs of the industry, UITP leads an external Stakeholder Group which will contribute to the exchange of feedbacks and to the clarification of the industry expectations through independent expertise.

Paving the green way

The BIOMOTIVE project will pave the way towards the production and subsequent market penetration of bio-based automotive interior parts such as door handles, car-seats, and instrument panels, with the aim of replacing the fossil-based, non-biodegradable counterparts. Within the project, innovative and advanced bio-based materials with increased bio-based content (60-80 per cent) will be produced from renewable biomass feedstock (not in competition with food and feed, e.g. cardoon seeds). It is expected that such materials will demonstrate advanced properties in terms of resistance to fire, mechanical strength and flexibility.

From the environmental side, the BIOMOTIVE project aims to reduce primary energy consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of the developed processes. Successful conclusion of the project will stimulate the penetration of eco-friendly materials in a broad range of applications. The materials under development will potentially replace incumbent materials based on fossil resources with bio-based materials derived from plants, wood and natural oils. This has the potential to reduce CO2 emissions and stimulate the adoption of composting as an end of life treatment option for durable goods, such as automotive vehicles.

Looking at the business and economics side, the project aims to create new jobs in the bio-based, green chemistry sectors and agricultural sectors, while creating the conditions for additional investments in the bio-based economy in Eastern European countries. In addition, the project seeks to expand the market for thermoplastic polyurethanes and regenerated fibres into the alternative applications, dedicated to the construction and the textile sectors.

The BIOMOTIVE project expects to provide the following:

  • Demonstration of the improved mechanical and functional properties of the developed products against the products already available in the market
  • Realisation of a total reduction in GHG emissions of up to 58 per cent for the final products
  • Potential creation of approximately 400 new jobs in the bio-based sector.

Taking the lead

The use of bio-materials in our production processes, and the simultaneous replacement of non-degradable parts with biodegradable parts, is recognised as being one of the main enablers for the reduction of pollutants and GHG emissions in the automotive industry. While other projects often mainly examine the environmental impacts of such a shift, it is important to have projects such as BIOMOTIVE that look at the economic impacts. In so doing, projects like BIOMOTIVE will enhance innovation capacity, create new market opportunities and strengthen the competitiveness and growth of companies by developing more cost-effective alternatives to petroleum-based products. It will also stimulate the growth of regional economies and employment.

A final note from Selena adds that: “It isn’t just the job of politicians and economists to make decisions that will help fight environmental change and natural pollution. Every single individual can make conscious everyday choices. The task of protecting the environment is our common responsibility; we should make use of environmentally-friendly solutions in all aspects of our lives and strive to broaden our knowledge in this field and to spread the information as widely as possible. By protecting the environment, we are protecting ourselves, and our future generations.”

Biography

Umberto Guida holds an MsC in System Engineering from University of Naples and is the Senior Director of UITP’s Knowledge and Innovation department. He has more than 20 years of experience of managing projects funded by different national and international entities and related to different means of transport. He has been at UITP since 2008 and the projects he has coordinated include EBSF (European Bus System of the Future) and ZeEUS (Zero Emission Urban Bus System).

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