Toyota Plans 1/X Seaweed Car

Toyota will be showcasing a new plug-in hybrid concept car called 1/X, made with seaweed, at this year’s Melbourne International Motor Show. Toyota is calling their newly developed plastic “Ecological Plastic” (EP), and the company is planning to increase use of plant-derived, carbon-neutral plastics in more of its future models. The 1/X is a concept car that redefines a car’s basic structure and manufacturing process, reducing the amount of CO2 emissions and consumption of resources.

Toyota is planning for their green vision of the future in the development of an ultra light, super-efficient plug-in hybrid with a bioplastics body made of seaweed. The 1/X, which weighs only 926 pounds, will have its carbon-fiber body, but not the frame itself, replaced with bioplastics. The design engineer, Mr. Kaida, said “We used light-weight carbon-fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) throughout the body for its superior collision safety – but that material is made from oil.”

The 1/X (pronounced “one-Xth”) received the name because it envisages a hybrid-powered car of the future with a fraction of the environmental footprint of today’s cleanest cars. The 1/X is a concept vehicle that redefines, from its very roots, the idea of what it means to be environmentally considerate. The vehicle is “1/Xth” the weight of other vehicles in its class, with a design that aims to harmoniously coexist with people and society and help achieve sustainable mobility. The 1/X could potentially be seen in showrooms in the next 15 years.

The weight of the four-passenger 1/X vehicle has been reduced by employing carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) in the body; along with the successfully reduced body weight, the engine displacement is 500cc, 1/3 that of even current mini-vehicles. The plug-in hybrid power train is a combination of an engine and electric motor that can be recharged from external sources.

Designers of the 1/X are aiming at improved fuel consumption by combining the plug-in hybrid power train with flexible fuel technology that uses a mixture of ethanol and gasoline. Its electric-only cruising distance would be longer than today’s battery technology would allow, along with the benefit of emitting less CO2, helping to reduce air pollution. In addition to improved fuel efficiency and driving performance, the 1/X’s wheels are narrow, with a small diameter that reduces the amount of road noise, yet are sufficient to support the body and provide stability while driving.

Bioplastics, which are plant-derived carbon-neutral plastics, are currently being utilized for many things, including cell phone cases and gift cards. Bioplastic production requires the use of 30 percent less energy than the production of petroleum-based plastics, and like the 1/X, are being designed into larger and more significant products that can directly influence emissions and air quality. While they are being explored as a new green technology, bioplastics are not a new invention. In 1910 Henry Ford experimented with the use of hemp-based fiber fillers in body molding for his vehicle production. Ford’s research led to the manufacture of a complete car body made of hemp plastics in the 1930’s, where the total weight of the automobile was 2,300 pounds, or roughly two-thirds the weight of a steel model of comparable size.

TFOT has covered several stories regarding use of bioplastics and green technology, including “Bio-Based Solar Cells” and “Nokia Eco Sensor Phone.” “Israel Welcomes Electric Cars,” from early 2008,  covers the development of the market for electric cars in Israel
For more information on the 1/X and Toyota Motor Corporation, you can visit their display at the 40th Tokyo Motor show’s web page.