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Mercedes Goes Bananas

The diminutive second-generation Mercedes-Benz A-Class is not only "green" from the standpoint of the comparative fuel efficiency it offers (4.9 liters/100 km—or 62 miles/1.29 gal), but it is enviro in another way.

The diminutive second-generation Mercedes-Benz A-Class is not only "green" from the standpoint of the comparative fuel efficiency it offers (4.9 liters/100 km—or 62 miles/1.29 gal), but it is enviro in another way. While the company has long used natural fibers in vehicle manufacturing including flax, hemp, sisal, and coconut (see DCX's High Fiber Diet, June 2001), these applications have been for interior applications. With the A-Class, however, they’ve taken it to the exterior: the spare tire recess is covered with a composite material—a polypropylene thermoplastic with embedded banana fibers. Known to the fiber aficionados as "abaca," the fibers, provided by Manila Cordage from the Philippines, is said to have high tensile strength and resistant to rotting. Consequently, they can withstand stone strikes and exposure to the elements. A benefit of using the abaca rather than the more-conventional glass fibers is that the production of the glass requires energy so there is a primary energy savings of 60% with the natural fiber. The supplier of the component is Rieter Automotive.