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Ford looks to agave for use as a bioplastic

by • July 28, 2016 • NewsComments (0)6824

Ford Motor Company is teaming up with Jose Cuervo to explore the use of the tequila producer’s agave plant by-product to develop more sustainable bioplastics for use in Ford vehicles. Ford and Jose Cuervo are testing the bioplastic for use in vehicle interior and exterior components such as wiring harnesses, Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) units and storage bins.

Initial assessments suggest the material holds great promise due to its durability and aesthetic qualities. Success in developing a sustainable composite could reduce vehicle weight and lower energy consumption, while paring the use of petrochemicals and the impact of vehicle production on the environment.

Researchers are testing the materials durability and heat resistance

“At Ford, we aim to reduce our impact on the environment,” said Debbie Mielewski, Ford senior technical leader, sustainability research department. “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.”

The growth cycle of the agave plant is a minimum seven-year process. Once harvested, the heart of the plant is roasted, before grinding and extracting its juices for distillation. Jose Cuervo uses a portion of the remaining agave fibres as compost for its farms, and local artisans make crafts and agave paper from the remnants. Now, as part of Jose Cuervo’s broader sustainability plan, the tequila maker is joining forces with the automaker to develop a new way to use its remnant fibres.

Jose Cuervo is working with Ford to develop a new way to use its remnant fibres.

Jose Cuervo is proud to be working with Ford to further develop our agave sustainability plan,” said Sonia Espinola, director of heritage for Cuervo Foundation and master tequilera. “As the world’s No. 1-selling tequila, we could never have imagined the hundreds of agave plants we were cultivating as a small family business would eventually multiply to millions. This collaboration brings two great companies together to develop innovative, earth-conscious materials.”

The collaboration with Jose Cuervo is the latest example of Ford’s innovative approach to product and environmental stewardship through the use of biomaterials. Ford began researching the use of sustainable materials in its vehicles in 2000. Today Ford uses eight sustainable-based materials in their vehicles including soy foam, castor oil, wheat straw, kenaf fibre, cellulose, wood, coconut fibre and rice hulls.

“There are about 400 pounds [181kg] of plastic on a typical car,” said Mielewksi. “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.”

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