In the automotive industry, carbon fiber is all the rage. Thanks to its light weight, it can improve fuel economy but is still strong enough to meet crash standards.
However, making carbon fiber is an energy-instensive process, and it’s not like the material grows on trees. That’s why surfboard manufacturer Gary Young is pushing for another lightweight material that does.
In an interview with the BBC, Young suggested techniques he’s developed for making surfboards could be applied to cars. His boards use a special bamboo weave combined with an epoxy coating that is apparently strong, light, and flexible.
While it may not be strong enough for all automotive applications, bamboo does have some advantages. It’s much cheaper, and truly renewable. In fact, some species can grow up to 40 inches per day, and all of the leftover material decomposes.
Yet bamboo may be difficult to adapt to automotive production. There currently is no infrastructure that can produce bamboo on the scale demanded by the industry, and it isn’t possible to produce sheets of bamboo large enough to be made into certain parts, like body panels.
So for the time being, bamboo in cars will probably be limited to trim pieces, like, the bamboo-clad steering wheels Lexus puts in certain luxury-car models.