Ford invests (again) in green products

Ford Motor Company is going back to its roots (soybeans specifically) and is now further investing in more eco-friendly materials and products for automobile parts – interior components front to back, seat cushions and fabrics, underbody and impact shields, headliners, trunk liners, etc.

Here are current biobased products already in their cars:

  • Soy-based polyurethane foams on the seat cushions and seat backs, now in production on the Ford Mustang, Expedition, F-150, Focus, Escape, Escape Hybrid, Mercury Mariner and Lincoln Navigator and Lincoln MKS. Soy-foam headliner on the 2010 Escape and Mariner.

  • 100% post-industrial recycled yarns in seat fabrics for the 2008 Ford Escape. 85% post-industrial yarns and 15 percent solution died yarns for the 2010 Fusion and Mercury Milan Hybrids.

  • The 2010 Ford Taurus SHO and Lincoln MKZ utilize seat fabrics made from 100% post-consumer recycled yarns from plastic pop bottles.

  • Underbody systems, such as aerodynamic shields,splash shields, and radiator air deflector shields, made frompost-consumer recycled resins such as detergent bottles, tires andbattery casings for 2008 Ford, Lincoln and Mercury products. For the2009 model year, all North American products will use the recycledresin.
  • Engineered (and recycled) ebony wood on Lincolnproducts. For 2010, the Lincoln MKZ will also offer interior leatherstanned with a more earth-friendly, chromium-free process.

On the horizon are corn-based, compostable and natural-fiber filledplastics as a potential substitute for glass fibers; polylactic acid(PLA) plastic; soy protein fillers in rubber for items such as doorseals, floor mats, gaskets and splash shields; experimentation withnanotechnology, including nano-filler materials in metal and plasticcomposites to reduce weight while increasing strength.

For more information on Ford’s soybean history check out this excerpt from my 2007 story on greener automobiles:


What’s old… is new again

AUGUST 13, 1941 – The firstplastic-bodied car mostly made from agriculture-based raw materials wasunveiled in Dearborn, Michigan, US, by Henry Ford, founder of FordMotor Company.

Dubbed the Soybean Car, it weighed1,000 lbs less than the average steel car and was said to be Ford’sdream of combining the transportation and agriculture industries, aswell as trying to reduce costs caused by the shortage of metal at thattime.

“The plastic, which was inventedby chemist Robert Allen Boyer, was made out of a formulation ofsoybeans, wheat, cotton, hides, plus a few imported, now hard-to-getingredients such as cork, rubber, tung oil and ramie – formerly used towrap Egyptian mummies,” reported Time magazine in its August 1941article.

At that time, Ford was alsodeveloping soybean fiber for use in auto upholstery, according to aSeptember 1941 article by ICIS Chemical Business predecessor Oil, Paintand Drug Reporter. “Considerable progress has been made in thedevelopment of the fiber which is spun from pure protein extracted fromsoybean oil,” Donald Ramseyer, plant superintendent of Ford’s soybeanenterprises said in the article.

The Soybean Car did not make itinto commercial production, with the outbreak of World War II,according to the Benson Ford Research Center. The project wasreportedly abandoned as the company’s energy was diverted toward war,and later on, war recovery efforts.

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