June 22, 2010

Ford Q&A on green cars

One of Ford Motor's strategies is to make their cars more environment-friendly by using plant-based chemicals or recycled materials. According to Ford, its vehicles are already 85% recyclable by weight, but it wants to increase its use of bio-based materials such as its seat cushions and seatbacks, which already use soybean-based polyurethane.

The 2010 Ford Flex also features the automotive industry’s first application of wheat straw-reinforced plastic for the third-row storage bins. Ford said the natural fiber replaces energy-inefficient glass fibers commonly used to reinforce plastic parts.

Here is my recent interview with Deborah Mielewski, polymer technical leader for Ford Motor Company on more of their bio-based materials strategy:

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Q: Aside from bio-based polyurethane foams, are there any other bio-based products/chemicals that are currently being used in Ford's automobiles? In what components of the car are they being applied on?

Mielewski:
The soy-based foam is currently being used on the seat cushions and backs of 10 Ford/Lincoln models. The soy foam technology has migrated within Ford Motor Company incredibly fast. In addition, we have soy-based foam in the headliner of the 2010 Escape.

Last fall, we became the first automaker to utilize wheat straw (a bi-product of growing wheat) as a filler in the third row plastic bins on the 2010 Ford Flex. This material was developed in conjuction with the Ontario BioCar; a group of Canadian Universities and companies interested in developing sustainable materials for cars. Even though these bins are a small component, they save about 20,000 pounds of petroleum annually, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 30,000 pounds each year.

One thing we've learned is that small environmental improvements really add up when you make millions of vehicles each year.

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