Will your next car be full of plant-based materials? Possibly if it is made in Dearborn or at any of Ford Motor Company’s assembly plants. Ford is evolving from the status quo into a trendsetter and a high-tech manufacturer of 21st century vehicles. The company’s transformation is full of new changes, from automated parallel parking to steering wheels embedded with biometric technology and now, the automaker is using a variety materials derived out of plants and waste products.
Inhabitat attended last week’s Ford’s Go Further Trend Conference, where Ford’s researchers were on hand to show some of the latest materials extracted from plants that are being used in Ford vehicles. Some were from everyday food products; others were sourced from more exotic materials.
On the edible side, Ford has worked on soy cushioning for over 10 years. The first prototypes didn’t fare so well, but now some Ford Explorers have soy-based cushioning in seats and headrests. Byproducts from wheat cultivation are part of the Ford Flex’s indoor trim bins. Waste from coconut processing, or coir, could soon find its way into bioplastic car parts that previously were made solely out of petroleum. Kenaf, a tropical plant related to cotton and okra, has leaves that are edible and is the base of a resin that replaced oil-based materials in the doors of some Ford Escape models. Ford says the amount of kenaf the company uses conserves 300,000 pounds of petroleum-based resin a year.
Other alternatives are not so tasty but are certainly fascinating. Denim, long an alternative to fiberglass insulation, makes its way into padding under carpet and is also useful for reducing outdoor noise. Shredded plastic bottles are churned into seat upholstery. And now the latest development is Ford’s experimentation with shredding retired U.S. currency, mixing it with resins, and then molding them into trays and other interior parts. Imagine if your car’s coin tray could someday be made out of money!