Ontario backs crop-based auto parts

The Ontario government will invest a total of $2.5 million in new product development by three companies making auto parts from crop fibres and oils.

The funding will flow through the Guelph-based Ontario BioAuto Council, a provincially-backed organization connecting plant-based chemical and fibre processors with the province’s auto parts and assembly sectors.

“These investments will help Ontario companies move to the forefront of
technologies that allow us to replace toxic materials and products with
environmentally friendly, bio-based ones,” Environment Minister John Gerretsen said in a release. “It’s a win for our environment and for our manufacturers.”

The lion’s share of funding from Thursday’s announcement will go to Mississauga’s Woodbridge Group, makers of oilseed-based BioFoam, now used in cars’ seat cushions, head restraints and armrests.

Using $1 million in council funding, the company plans to develop a system incorporating BioFoam with natural fibres to make automotive ceilings which it expects will be lighter and provide better cabin sound quality.

New sales as a result of this program are predicted to run around $5 million in 2010, increasing to $40 million by 2013, Woodbridge predicted in the province’s release.

Another $776,250 will go to Canadian General-Tower Ltd., based in Cambridge, for a project to evaluate two bio-based plasticizers. CGT, which makes automotive interior trim materials, uses petroleum-based phthalates as plasticizers to soften hard PVC plastics for their products.

If the bio-based plasticizers pass muster in CGT’s tests, the company said it could convert up to 90 per cent of its products to use bio-based plasticizers by 2012.

The remaining $755,000 from Thursday’s announcement will back a project by GreenCore Composites of Toronto to refine its production process for natural fibre-based composites, improve its products, and encourage its industrial customers to adopt the new materials.

“The company’s Green Inside pellets could be used in several sectors, including automotive, furniture and other consumer products,” the province said. “Trials with automotive industry partners have confirmed the commercial potential of GreenCore’s technology.”

GreenCore is a spin-off company created by the Innovations Group at the University of Toronto in September 2005 to commercialize natural-fibre composites technology.

The Ontario BioAuto Council was launched by the province in 2006 with over $6 million in government funding to date, to help companies develop and commercialize such materials.

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