The Japanese technology group Asahi Kasei celebrated his 100th birthday on May 25, 2022. 100 years earlier, the company was founded by Shitagau Noguchi in Nobeoka, in the south-west of Japan. At the same time, Asahi Kasei is presenting AKXY2 (pronounced “axi”), a visionary mobility study to the public. The concept vehicle is intended to redefine the values of sustainability, well-being and social responsibility for future mobility. Against the background of a changing mobile society towards automation and electrification, AKXY2 is a representation of how these values determine the mobility of tomorrow, according to the company in a recent press release.
„In addition to legal developments, the changing demands of customers are causing automobile manufacturers to change existing processes in the direction of more safety, more comfort and more sustainability for the vehicle“, says Heiko Rother, General Manager Automotive Business Development at Asahi Kasei Europe. “We must act quickly now. The latest survey results from the Asahi Kasei Automotive Interior Survey from November 2021 clearly indicate that 50 percent of car users in the four most important car markets USA, Germany, Japan and China will choose a different brand than their current car the next time they buy a car. Therefore, the materials used in the automobile, in addition to the drive used or the driving performance, are a decisive differentiator for a positive user experience, whether it is always visible at first glance or not,” Rother continues.
Sustainability – Satisfaction – Society
The AKXY2 concept vehicle demonstrates Asahi Kasei’s cross-divisional expertise across the entire value chain, from raw materials to production technologies to the use of recycled and recyclable materials. Almost every component and material that you can see and touch in the vehicle was manufactured or co-developed by Asahi Kasei. Components and solutions in the AKXY2 are designed to appeal to the senses, enhance safety, ensure the highest level of functionality while reducing environmental impact. Three ‘S’ have therefore determined the development and design of the vehicle: Sustainability, Satisfaction and Society.
From technical textiles to rubber materials, Asahi Kasei engineers have incorporated materials into the concept that can contribute to a lower carbon footprint of vehicles compared to traditional materials. The interior surfaces are covered with high-quality microfiber suede, which is partly made from recycled polyester. In addition to recycled and bio-based polyester fibers, Sage Automotive Interiors, a wholly owned subsidiary of Asahi Kasei, also has materials in its portfolio that contain plastic waste from the sea as a raw material. The vehicle seats are upholstered with Cubit, a spacer fabric also made from partly bio-based polyester.
The synthetic rubber used in the tire treads is said to enable excellent wet grip with reduced rolling resistance. This increases the fuel and energy efficiency of vehicles. At the same time, the increased abrasion resistance reduces the formation of microplastics and generally increases the service life of the tires. Asahi Kasei uses biomass-based butadiene to make the rubber.
Quiet and hygienic interior
Drivers are becoming more and more demanding and individual, especially when it comes to the quality and design of the automobile interior. One of the main themes of AKXY2 is therefore about the senses – from the feel of the textiles to a soundproof and low-noise environment and a futuristic design.
In recent years, the understanding of safety in vehicles has expanded to include the antimicrobial properties of surfaces and air quality. In order to meet these new needs of vehicle users, Asahi Kasei uses components from the Kasei Healthy Car portfolio. This includes antimicrobial textiles that are intended to protect the vehicle interior from the spread of pathogens or sensors that monitor the CO2 content to ensure optimal air quality, optimize energy consumption via consumption-controlled ventilation and also those left behind via the CO2 content in the air Detect occupants or pets in the vehicle. In addition, semi-transparent and backlit fabrics and optical plastic fibers enable individual ambient lighting in the vehicle, while sustainable textiles and foams are intended to bring a new level of comfort to the seats.
Asahi Kasei’s designers and constructors have worked intensively on the question of how the car can be an inspirational platform for our future society. More than just a means of transportation, it will serve more as a meeting place to connect with friends and family, much like the courtyard of a home.
The “Creating for Tomorrow” approach has been Asahi Kasei’s lifeblood for the past 100 years, and creating tomorrow’s solutions with both internal and external collaboration has been a key element of growth. “One of Asahi Kasei’s greatest strengths is the ability to draw from our diverse product portfolio across multiple group companies and also to work with external start-ups to develop new concepts, such as smart textiles„, sagt Mike Franchy, Director of North American Mobility bei Asahi Kasei America.
„AKXY2 embodies our expertise as a trusted partner for OEMs and Tier-1s for both technology and interior and exterior components. It’s hard to believe that it all started 100 years ago with simple textiles made from synthetic cellulose like rayon. We’ve come a long way since then and I look forward to seeing how these contributions continue to shape the automotive industry,” Franchy concludes.
Source: Asahi Kasei – press release of 05/25/2022
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