Volkswagen’s Pen Hybrid LabFactory developing biobased car materials of the future

November 22, 2021 |

In Germany, a research association between science and companies, Volkswagen is working on the car materials of the future: Innovations based on cellulose and mushrooms (biological polymers) could soon replace leather and help protect the climate. 

Stepping into the “Open Hybrid LabFactory” (OHLF) on the outskirts of Wolfsburg for the first time is a bit like an adventure trail in a computer game. At the heart of the research campus is the technical center, a hall several stories high. Casting systems, injection molding systems, compression technology and industrial robots set the tone. The materials of future cars are being researched in wire cages and glass cubicles – the goal being to make textiles, metals, plastics and composites even lighter and more sustainable, but just as stable as the materials of today. 

The Open Hybrid LabFactory is representative of the public-private partnership model, meaning that higher education institutions and industrial enterprises work closely together here. Full members include the city of Wolfsburg, the Automotive Research Centre Niedersachsen (NFF), the Fraunhofer Society and the Technical University of Braunschweig. And on the industry side of things, many automotive industry suppliers and metal and plastic processing companies are involved in the research alongside Volkswagen. 

Volkswagen has made a general decision to no longer use animal products for the all-electric ID. family. However, the demand for non-animal, high-quality alternatives to leather is rising in other model ranges as well. The reason being that the carbon footprint of leather is relatively high compared with other materials, since livestock farming must also be taken into account.

Another research project that Volkswagen and businesses in the fashion industry, waste management and tanneries are involved in is looking into the possibilities of natural polymers based on fungal mycelium (the fungal network as a whole). The initial research in this area is also looking promising for the development of new, sustainable materials. 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Tags: , ,

Category: Research

Thank you for visting the Digest.