Take a walk through Ford’s research center and you’ll find an eclectic mix of items at the workstations. Soybeans, coconuts, dandelions, tomato skins – these aren’t leftovers for the office compost bin; instead they are just a few of the surprising materials used to create Ford vehicles.
What do you do with leftover soybeans, once they’ve been smashed, squeezed and pulped for soy milk? Turn them into seat foam, of course. For four years, Ford has been using soy-based foam in its seat cushions and seat backs. The auto company currently has soy-foam seats in more than 15 million vehicles on the road, which has reduced petroleum consumption at Ford by more than 6 million kg.
2. Castor Oil
When you look at the Mustang dashboard, what do you think of first? That’s right, castor oil. Ford uses locally sourced castor oil to create a special foam for the Mustang’s instrument panel. The castor-oil foam provides a more sustainable interior solution than previous petroleum-based foams.
3. Plastic Bottles
Do you ever stop to think about what happens to a plastic bottle once you throw it away? Ford does. In 2012, Ford started using REPREVE® – a hybrid fiber made from recycled plastic bottles – in its seat fabrics. Today, the company uses the environmentally friendly fiber in more than 50 different seat fabrics.
Have you heard about kenaf? Think of it as cotton’s not-so-distant cousin. This wonder plant is used to create the interior door panels on selected Ford vehicles. The use of kenaf reduces the weight of the door bolsters by 25 percent, which translates into better fuel efficiency for the driver.
Coconut water is all the rage right now, but did you know that coconuts can be used for more than just hydration? Coconut coir – made from leftover coconut husks – is used in the trunk mats in selected Ford vehicles.
6. Wheat Straw
Next time you’re chewing on your sandwich, chew on this: Ford takes discarded wheat-straw from local farms and uses it to create car storage bins. By using wheat-straw-reinforced plastic, rather than 100-percent traditional petroleum products, it is estimated Ford saves 14,000 kg of CO2 emissions per year.
Thanks to Ford, discarded blue jeans are getting a second life. Ford takes recycled denim and turns it into sound-absorbing hood insulation. It’s estimated that two pairs of jeans are found under the hood of select Ford vehicles.
Money makes the world go round, but it also makes Ford’s wheels go round, too. Right now, Ford is experimenting with retired US currency and is planning to use it in plastic parts like trays and storage compartments.
9. Tomato Skins
You say tomato, Ford says tom-auto. It might seem that tomatoes and cars have nothing in common, but researchers at Ford and Heinz see the possibility of an innovative union. Researchers are investigating the use of dried tomato skins in wiring brackets and storage bins for selected Ford vehicles.
While some gardeners may groan at the sight of dandelions, Ford is head over heels for them. The research team is currently investigating different methods of turning the common garden weed into a natural rubber alternative. This eco-friendly rubber could find its way into plastic parts in Ford vehicles including cup holders and gasket covers.