Car Parts Made of Coconuts?

About 1.1 billion cars are on the world’s roads, according to a recent estimate. Each of these cars uses some form of oil-based plastic for everything from dashboards to door handles. Processing and manufacturing these artificial materials puts a huge strain on the environment. But thanks to some clever and resourceful material scientists and mechanical engineers at Baylor University, new vehicles will need a bit less plastic. That’s right, more of your next car will be made of coconuts.

Everything from Trunk Liners to Dashboards

The fibers inside coconut husks are ideal for creating trunk liners, car ceilings, dashboards, door panels and floorboards. So instead of polyester fiber, these areas can now be made with milled coconut fiber mixed with recycled polypropylene, creating a non-woven fabric composite. When these fibers are heated, they provide a moldable, durable trunk liner that’s resistant to fire, fungus and is more economical. You can’t argue with the math: virgin polyester goes for 60 cents a pound; recycled polypropylene, 47 cents; and coconut fiber, just 40 cents.

Adopting “Husky” Parts to Reinforce Plastic

Ford went to coconuts as an alternative material to some metals and plastics. They wanted materials that were renewable, recyclable and more environmentally friendly. The automaker plans to use coir (the husks, or hairy outsides of the coconut) as a reinforcement material, one that’s like carbon fiber, yet not as stiff and far more economical than the composites used in race cars. The long coconut fibers are partly visible, too, giving these parts a more natural look than ordinary plastic.

Coconut Farmers Win

Using coconuts for car parts is great news for the 11 million poor coconut farmers near the equator who grow over 5,000 coconuts annually. Selling the normally tossed out coconut husks can potentially triple a farmer’s income in just one year, not to mention the extra jobs this generates. What’s more, using coconuts for trunk liners, car ceilings, dashboards, door panels and floorboards could save more than two million barrels of oil annually. It’s sustainable, environmentally friendly and helps hold down today’s ever-escalating vehicle costs. Truly a win-win for all—environmentalists, farmers and carmakers.

This doesn’t stop with cars. Baylor scientists and Whole Tree (a company founded by Baylor grad students) are putting their heads together to make building environmentally sustainable materials for insulation and roofs in homes.

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Christine Jones
Christine J1 years ago

Great idea; the sooner the better.

Elena Poensgen
Elena Poensgen2 years ago

Thank you :)

Erin H.
Erin H2 years ago

Interesting article, thank you!

Katie & Bill D2 years ago

Thank You

Lone W.
Lone W2 years ago

Due to the pandemics in obesity and diabetes, there is a need for people to reduce their comsumption of coconut oil and coconut products. However, whenever big descision like that are needed, people in that inductry are severely affected. What is related in this article would seem to offer a solution that not only would help reduce nutritional consumption of coconut, but actually would improve the income of coconut farmers.

ERIKA S2 years ago

thank you for the article

Dave C.
David C2 years ago


judith sanders
judith sanders2 years ago

As long as they don't make the chassis out of this stuff. Anyone else remember the East German cars like the Trabant that fell apart in minor accidents?
I hop these researchers look as hemp stalks and bamboo, too.

Dale O.

Sounds like a good idea for the environment. It would also be delightful if cars start smelling like coconut, that would eliminate the need (for some) of having chemical air fresheners inside the cars.

john pierce
John Pierce2 years ago

Interesting article, thank you!