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Materials Sustainability Is In Ford’s DNA

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It could very well be said that Ford Motor Company leads the automotive pack with regard to innovating and implementing green, sustainable materials in its passenger vehicles. In 2007, the automaker started using a foam created from soybean oil in the Mustang pony car; in 2014, it launched the current generation of the F-150 pickup, whose seats are upholstered in a radical fabric made from discarded plastic water bottles.

Now, Ford Motor Company is partnering with Jose Cuervo to hopefully find a way to repurpose excess agave fibers left over from the tequila production process. Leading the effort is Ms. Debbie Mielewski, Ford Senior Technical Leader of Materials Sustainability, who recently spoke with website The Cheat Sheet about the agave project and Ford’s long history with innovative, green materials.

“Henry Ford in the ’40s was working very intensely in similar projects,” she told the website. “He loved the soybean; he was the first recycler extraordinaire; he had asked suppliers to ship products in a certain-size carton, which he then used them as floorboards in a vehicle. He didn’t believe in any waste and thought agriculture and the auto industry were the most natural partners – if Ford used farmers’ products, they would buy Ford trucks.”

In the future, Jose Cuervo’s leftover agave fibers could be used to create a new bioplastic suitable for use in electrical connectors, HVAC units, and the like. “I see this effort as complementary to all the fuel economy improvements we’ve made,” said Ms. Mielewski. “I don’t think other OEMs have taken these measures to heart like we have. We’ve done lifecycle analysis on all materials we’ve implemented so we have hard numbers on how much greenhouse gas reductions we’ll see using these bioplastics. Just because it’s plant-based doesn’t mean it will be good for the environment.

Mielewski continued: “Our numbers show these biomaterials are an improvement. The leading factor for all our natural-fiber lifecycling has been lightweighting. So as soon as you lightweight a component, you improve fuel economy and it’s on the road 100,000 miles. That’s the huge difference in how green the component is.”

For the full interview with Ford’s Debbie Mielewski, visit CheatSheet.com.

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Written by Aaron Brzozowski

Aaron Brzozowski is a writer and motoring enthusiast from Detroit with an affinity for '80s German steel. He is not active on the Twitter these days, but you may send him a courier pigeon.

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