Ford Aims To Create Vehicle Entirely From Sustainable Materials
A dedicated research lab is transforming toxins into reusable materials
A Ford Motor Company research facility just outside of corporate headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan is embarking on an ambitious task: taking carbon dioxide and using it to create sustainable materials for the production of new vehicles. The project is a partnership with Novomer, a company that captures the greenhouse gases from manufacturing plants and will provide the research lab with the material to develop foams for seat cushions and other parts.
The research team has been around for almost two decades and has received more and more interest as the general public has become more educated about air pollution and as governments pass laws to reduce greenhouse gases. Starting with the Ford Mustang in 2007, the group has utilized soy materials in the cushions, seatbacks and headrests of all Ford vehicles in the US and developed ways of using more once waste materials into usable ones. Examples include tree fibers for fiberglass, wheat straw for storage bins and shredded paper currency for coin trays.
Soy, as it turns out, is nothing new to Ford. Henry Ford built a soybean car in 1941, but when oil prices bottomed out, the company focused on petroleum parts. His vision remains, embodied in the research lab. The approach is novel, as most auto manufacturers (including Ford) have already been concentrating on more fuel-efficient or non-gasoline vehicles. This work seeks to solve the problem of interiors, where most cars still use plastics created from fossil fuels.
Development of the new materials is still experimental, but the team is hopeful that even if something is created is not viable for a car, it can be used in other industries. The lab is licensing out its inventions and is working with companies like Coca-Cola to integrate them in other consumer products. The dream scenario is still to one day be able to produce a vehicle from entirely sustainable materials.