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How Toyota uses static electricity to make painting cars greener

The totally airless painting process will reduce the automaker's CO2 emissions by about 7%.

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- 02:06

Your carbon footprint expands to so many parts of daily life that it's easy to not take certain areas into account. When it comes to automobiles, you might think about tailpipe emissions, vehicle production and even tire wear emissions, but really, that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Painting vehicles seems rather straightforward, but the process also produces CO2. To help combat this, Toyota has a novel way to reduce the process' impact in its new airless paint atomizer.

The Japanese automaker said on Thursday the new technology will reduce emissions across the company by around 7% and achieves a 95% coating efficiency, up from 60-70%. Not only is the system better for the environment, it's better for business. Before diving into the new tech, it helps to understand what happens in a traditional painting process.

A regular air paint atomizer uses aerodynamic force to push the paint onto the vehicle body. The result includes paint particles scattered around as they bounce off the surface and into the air. With the airless system, Toyota developed a way to use static electricity to move paint from the nozzle to the vehicle surface.

As paint flows through the static electricity, it's charged in a way that moves the particles to the vehicle's body. There's no air involved and it greatly reduces scattered paint particles in the air. All the while, the paint coats more efficiently.

Toyota's technology centers on a new cylindrical paint sprayer nozzle, which features 600 special grooves. The tip rotates to create a centrifugal force, channels the paint through and charges the paint particles with static electricity. So, really, the paint spins through the nozzle, receives its static charge and the charge motions the paint toward the body in a highly efficient manner. Toyota also realized the charge would change as the nozzle moves closer and further away from a vehicle body. Engineers solved the problem with constant voltage control and a maintained distance of just under four inches between the sprayer and the body.

As the technology rolls out to plants around the world, it offers another major benefit: The tech is smaller, which will allow the automaker to construct more compact production lines. Right now, the airless paint system is already online at the company's plants in Takaoka and Tsutsumi, Japan.

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