Nissan’s All-electric LEAF Hatchback is More Recycled Than You Think

It doesn’t matter if it’s a gas-guzzling V-8 muscle car or a super-efficient plug-in: the process of building a new car uses a lot of energy and consumes a lot of resources. So it’s important for automakers to make sure that any new car they produce is as green as it can be, both in its use and in its manufacture.

Old household appliances give up their plastic components for your Nissan LEAF.

Old household appliances give up their plastic components for your Nissan LEAF.

With zero tailpipe emissions, Nissan’s all-electric LEAF hatchback is one of the greenest cars you can buy today, especially if you power it during its lifetime from renewable sources of energy such as wind or solar power. But as it turns out, the Nissan LEAF — like many other plug-in cars on the market today — is also a pretty green vehicle in the way it has been made, with more than 25 per cent of its components coming from recycled materials.

What’s more, some of the sources for those recycled materials may surprise you, as this just-released informercial — called “Nissan LEAF: Beyond Zero Emissions” — shows.

As the video explains, around 25 per cent of every Nissan LEAF is made from recycled materials, totalling some 375 kilograms of mass, everything from the LEAF’s monocoque chassis to its seats, plastics and even window seals are made with recycled materials. Recycling rather than using new materials helps not only keep build costs down, but it also massively lowers the environmental impact of making a new car.

As Nissan explains in the video, the seats in some models are made with recycled bioPET — or plastic bottles as you might recognise them. The door trim is made from recycled resin, while the centre console is made with high-grade plastic from recycled electrical appliances.

According to Nissan, refrigerators and AC units often contribute the best plastics for the centre console, while lesser quality plastics can be used for other components.

But perhaps the most intriguing use of recycled materials — and probably the fastest from source to factory-ready part at two days — is the sound insulation used at to help attenuate the noise from the car’s transmission and motor. Because while the perfectly-formed sheets of custom-shaped insulation may look brand-new, they’re actually made from recycled clothing.

Nissan's Chief Engineer Hidetoshi Kadota says the Nissan LEAF is one green vehicle thanks to its recycled materials.

Nissan’s Chief Engineer Hidetoshi Kadota says the Nissan LEAF is one green vehicle thanks to its recycled materials.

As the video explains, it takes about two days for unwanted clothes from a variety of sources — including old factory uniforms, domestic sources and offcuts from factories — to be turned into sound insulation.

First, the clothes are chopped up on a conveyor belt before being formed under great pressure into foam-like sheets. After this, the sheets are put through a high-pressure die which shapes the sheets into the correct form to be used on the car, while any excess material is removed and sent back for recycling.

Working closely with external recycling suppliers, Nissan is also able to ensure that those recycling the various materials always have a buyer for their material, while simultaneously ensuring it has a steady supply chain to meet increasing production demand. A two-way partnership also ensures recycled material is up to Nissan’s high quality control standard. Just because the car is made with a large number of recycled materials says Nissan, quality is still extremely important.

The sound insulator in the Nissan LEAF is made from recycled clothes and takes two days from clothes to part.

The sound insulator in the Nissan LEAF is made from recycled clothes and takes two days from clothes to part.

So next time you sit behind the wheel of a Nissan LEAF, you might be sitting on someone’s old drink bottle, storing your phone in an old air conditioning unit, and using old clothes to make your journey extra quiet.

To paraphrase the old children’s nursery rhyme “recycled bottles and washing machines, that’s what LEAFs are made of.”

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