New bioplastic would reduce carmaker's environmental impact.
Ford has teamed with Jose Cuervo to use the best-selling tequila maker's agave fibre waste to produce bioplastic.
The bioplastic is being tested for use in interior and exterior components such as wiring harnesses, HVAC units, and storage bins. Early assessments have been promising, with the material proving to look good and to be durable.
Implementing bioplastics would obviously reduce the need for petrochemical-based materials in the production of Ford's cars and, since it's lighter than conventional plastics, would reduce fuel consumption. As a result, Ford's overall environmental impact would be significantly reduced.
The agave plant takes at least seven years to reach maturity. It's then harvested and the heart of the plant is roasted and ground to extract the juices that are then distilled to produce tequila. Jose Cuervo currently uses some of the waste fibre as compost on its farms, and artisans use them to produce crafts and paper. Now Ford has been added to that chain, as both companies seek to improve the sustainability of their business.
Ford already uses eight sustainable materials in its manufacturing processes, including soy foam, castor oil, and wheat straw.
Debbie Mielewski, Ford senior technical leader, sustainability research department said: “As a leader in the sustainability space, we are developing new technologies to efficiently employ discarded materials and fibres, while potentially reducing the use of petrochemicals and light-weighting our vehicles for desired fuel economy.”
According to the United National Environment Program, 5 billion metric tons of agricultural biomass waste is produced around the world every year, the vast majority of which is never reused.
"There are about 400 pounds (181 kilograms) of plastic on a typical car,” said Mielewski. “Our job is to find the right place for a green composite like this to help our impact on the planet. It is work that I’m really proud of, and it could have broad impact across numerous industries.”