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OM in the News: Ford Touts Car Parts Made From Plants

March 17, 2014

green auto partsIf you’re driving a new Ford, chances are you’re sitting on a seat filled with foam made from soybeans, reports the Orlando Sentinel (March 14, 2014).  It’s part of the push by many automakers to produce cars that are cleaner and greener. Plant-based materials that are used now or are in some phase of development by Ford include:

1. Fibers from coconut husks that can be included in sound-absorbing underlayment for carpet.

2. Wheat straw that is showing promise as reinforcement for plastics.

3. Latex extracted from dandelion roots to produce natural rubber, potentially replacing rubber from Asia or synthetic rubber made from petroleum.

“We are a group of research scientists developing these formulations and composites and looking at non-traditional materials and implementing them in our vehicles,” says a Ford engineer. The long list of automobile parts and pieces made traditionally from petroleum ingredients include cup holders, floor mats, engine O-rings and seals, dashboard trim and many more. A typical car is made with 100 kinds of plastic materials that weigh a combined 300 pounds, which includes 30 pounds of seat foam. Ford requires plant-based materials to perform as well as and cost no more than conventional products.

Classroom discussion questions:

1. Relate Ford’s move to the “Triple Bottom Line” concept introduced in Supplement 5, Sustainability in the Supply Chain.

2. Why is Ford moving towards green manufacturing?

One Comment leave one →
  1. Jay Heizer permalink
    March 17, 2014 3:57 am

    The Heizer Render text (Supplement 5; pages 192-193) recommends a product life cycle assessment that focuses on 3Rs (reduce, reuse and recycle). This approach may lower environmental impact via product design and production process. Ford’s as well as Mercedes’ and Boeing’s innovative use of material is noted there. Substitute materials may be lighter, generate fewer adverse by-products, and reduce operating costs.

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