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Mazda’s New Bio-Plastic Could Make Paint Obsolete

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2016 Mazda MX-5 RF Roadster

There’s all sorts of problems with paint. The process of producing it is generally terrible for the environment and paint itself isn’t very durable. It may not take a lot of use to see scratches appearing on the paintwork of a new car that had just recently and proudly boasted its intact, polished exterior—and fixing the scratches and blemishes can take some work.

But Mazda has been working on something much better. The Japanese automaker recently introduced a new bio-plastic, jointly developed with Mitsubishi Chemical, on its Roadster RF compact convertible, which is just now launching around the world. The plastic was created using isosorbide, a non-toxic compound derived from plant matter, and provides various benefits over the materials traditionally used in vehicles.

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The outer shell of a typical vehicle is made of a mix of metal, oil-based polycarbonates, and painted acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS) resin. Mazda’s aim is to replace the latter with the new material, as it is not only stronger and scratch-resistant but also highly weather-proof and easily formed into any required shape.

But here’s the best part: the bio-plastic can be finished in just about any color while achieving superior texture quality, effectively taking the need for paint out of the equation. The benefit there is twofold: not only does it avoid harmful paint emissions during production, it also saves the company money in the long run.

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While the 2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF Roadster is the first vehicle to make use of the material on small areas of the exterior, the automaker already uses its bio-plastic in the interior of the CX-9, Mazda3, and Mazda2 (sold in the United States as the Toyota Yaris iA). Eventually, we hope to see it used for the entire exterior of a car.