Want to hug a tree, or at least a really small part of one. Then set your arm down on one of those armrests in the 2014 Lincoln MKX crossover. The US automaker is working with Weyerhaeuser and Johnson Controls on a tree-based, cellulose-reinforced polypropylene material used in the component that connects the armrest to the floor console, Wards Auto says. With properties similar to plastic, the tree-based material replaces fiberglass and is about six percent lighter. No big deal for now, but if the material starts getting used for things like battery trays and interior storage covers, that loss in weight may eventually start adding up enough to boost fuel economy a bit, providing a green double bonus.
Lincoln parent Ford, which isn't saying how much more (or less?) it costs to use the new material, established its Biomaterials and Plastics Research team in 2001. In 2007, the company began using soy-based foam in car seats used for models such as the Lincoln Navigator and Ford Mustang and has since broadened biomaterials use to components like floormats and cupholder inserts. Ford also used recycled plastic bottles from the 2012 North America International Auto Show for seats in the Focus Electric.