Circular Economy Making bicycles circular: Biopolymer carbon compounds added to recyclable frames
The bicycle manufacturer Isoco and the frame developer V Frames have signed an exclusivity agreement with Lehvoss Group to collaborate on high-performance fibre-reinforced composites, including long carbon fibre and biopolymer carbon compounds. The agreement will further improve the environmental footprint of the frames Made in Germany.
Having successfully entered mass production of injection-moulded carbon frames, forks, cockpits and other components for several OEMs, and targeting a volume of one million components to be produced at the Isoco plant in Schmiedefeld, Germany, by 2027, V Frames' main development focus is on increasing the performance of raw materials. An agreement with Lehvoss will ensure that future frames can become lighter and more impact-resistant. Materials can then be used whose elastic modulus will be increased from the current 32,000 MPa to up to 50,000 MPa in the long term, which will further increase the rigidity of the components.
V Frames already produces the most sustainable bicycle frames in the world, reducing its carbon footprint by 64 percent compared to traditional aluminium frame production according to an LCA by the University of Linz, Austria. In addition, V Frames and Lehvoss focus on compounds containing recycled fibres from different industries for each new frame and recycle 100 percent of their products into new bicycle component products at the end of their life to ensure 100 percent recyclability. With Isoco's current production capacity of around three million frames per year, supply chains become independent of Asia as all production is based in Germany and can basically be arranged just-in-time. The drastically reduced transport of materials and parts leads to a significant reduction of the CO2 footprint. The development cooperation with Lehvoss will further improve the environmental footprint by introducing carbon fibre reinforced biopolymers into bicycle frame and component production for the first time.
V Frames’ Managing Director Michael Müller explains: “Lehvoss is an excellent partner for the development, production and testing of high-performance materials. With these steps, we were able to push the limits of our technology to a new level. For example, the Buddy Electric / Isoco X1 frame passed the drop weight test with 23 kg at a drop height of 1,120 mm, a level that is far above the maximum test requirements of all institutes and cannot be reached by most aluminium and conventional carbon frames.” The material used for these high-performance frames is now also available for third parties. Other materials are currently being developed and tested, such as the world's first bio-based long carbon fibre material for water injection technology (WIT)-assisted injection moulding.
Together, the companies are now also pushing the boundaries of environmental sustainability with the introduction of bio-based polyamides reinforced with carbon fibres. “We look forward to demonstrating the outstanding results of the new materials in the performance of our frames and components over the coming months and years. V Frames' approach is to tailor-make the perfect material for each frame geometry and component developed by V Frames”, adds Müller.
The material developer Lehvoss has always been at the forefront of developing high performance carbon fibre reinforced materials for many different industries. “We have been supporting the development of V-Frames technology and products for several years and are continuously testing new materials,” says Rene Warnick, Head of Research and Development at Lehvoss Customized Polymer Materials. “With bicycle frames and other bicycle components, V Frames offers some of the most sophisticated products in terms of product safety and performance in this technology segment. The fast pace of product improvement we see at V Frames makes them the perfect partner for us to continue to push the boundaries of material performance in the coming years.”
The new materials brought to market as part of this collaboration represent a completely new generation, consisting of world firsts biobased long fibre materials for WIT injection moulding, biobased polyamides reinforced with short carbon fibres as well as economical, ecological and performance-optimised materials based on PA, carbon fibre and glass fibre compounds.
The exclusivity agreement for the new materials signed with V Frames and Isoco follows several years of intensive cooperation. “The agreement includes the customised development of optimised materials in combination with WIT, matched to the application areas and their exclusive production for V-Frames,” continues Eric Folz, Senior Business Development Manager at Lehvoss.