Saturday, November 22, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Ford’s green push

Ford Motor Co. and H.J. Heinz Co. are trying to turn tomato skins into floor mats.

The car company is also working with soybean farmers, who are helping its engineers turn soy oil into seat cushions, and with the U.S. Department of the Treasury, which is helping it mold shredded U.S. currency into coin trays.

The effort is part of Ford’s biomaterials team’s push into nonpetroleum-based alternatives to traditional plastics. The goal is to reduce weight and increase fuel economy by using inexpensive, environmentally friendly materials that might otherwise become landfill.

“Our sustainable materials strategy (is) embodied by a ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’ commitment,” said Ellen C. Lee, team leader of Ford’s plastics research division. She recalled a meeting with Heinz, where she was told the company used 2 million pounds of tomatoes a year to make ketchup — and there was a byproduct Ford could use.

“That got our attention,” Lee said.

Ford vehicles already feature recycled jeans and T-shirts (turned into interior padding), recycled wood (turned into interior trim), recycled yarn (microsuede for upholstery) and a kind of hibiscus plant fiber known as kenaf (door bolsters).

The company’s Flex has wheat straw in the plastic storage bins. Ford’s Focus Electric has recycled plastic water bottles in its seat covers. The Escape dashboard contains about 10 pounds of blue jeans, T-shirts and sweaters.

Now the company is looking into turning dandelion and marigold pulp into a non-petroleum-based rubber, for automotive trim and tires, and is in the early stages of a deal to recycle millions of pounds of retired U.S. currency into interior parts such as coin trays.

“I don’t know if it would be right for every customer, but it fits with the theme,” Lee said. “You could actually see that it is shredded money.”

The interest in cheap, sustainable products for automobiles is part of Ford’s heritage, company officers say. Founder Henry Ford built and unveiled a “soybean car” in 1941. It featured soy oil-based plastic panels and weighed 1,000 pounds less than a conventional Ford. The panels didn’t dent or ding.

But Ford isn’t the only company pushing into new plastics.

Honda representatives say that in 2006 the company began using a corn-based “bio-fabric” for seating material that’s now included in its Accord Plug-In and Fit EV, two low-volume green vehicles. The company also uses a byproduct of sugar cane to make a type of plastic.

According to Toyota, the company was putting PET plastic components in some Prius and Lexus vehicles as early as 2007. Toyota has also for several years been using kenaf plant fibers for scuff plates and seat cushions in some cars, and uses bamboo charcoal in the manufacturing of its speaker cones.

Lee came to Ford early in her career, after graduate work at UC Berkeley.

She joined a biomaterials team that was looking into ways to create a seat cushion foam using soybean oil. In 2007, after six years of work, the product went into a vehicle — as part of the seat cushions for the 2008 Mustang.

The material migrated to other Ford vehicles and other applications. Now, Lee said, some sort of soy-based foam is in every Ford on the road, often as headrests. The company is also trying to use the product to make headliner and armrests.

The company is also part of the Plant PET Technology Collective, a consortium formed with Heinz, Coca-Cola Co., Nike Inc. and Procter & Gamble Co. The companies have pooled resources to figure out, among other things, how to abandon conventional plastics in favor of a plant-based plastic. The members of the group, formed in 2012, are using the plant-based plastic to make bottles, apparel, footwear and automotive carpet.

Coca-Cola is already making bottles that are 30 percent plant-based, Lee said.

“We want to push that from 30 percent to 100 percent,” she said.

The push into sustainable materials is about profits as much as the environment. Ford’s biomaterials website notes that a barrel of oil cost about $16 in the early 2000s, when the automaker first started researching reusable materials. Today, a barrel of oil might go for $115 or more.

The company says its use of soybean-based plastics reduces its petroleum consumption by 5 million pounds a year.

Don Anair of the Union of Concerned Scientists applauded the effort but suggested that automakers stay focused on reducing fuel consumption.

“There’s a general trend in many industries to find ways to use recycled materials,” Anair said. “But the biggest impact on the environment is the vehicles they make and the fuel they need to burn to operate.”

Several Ford representatives stressed that the use of natural products was, as Lee said, “in our company DNA.” Founder Ford was obsessed with finding ways of getting agriculture and automotive to work together. He put wheat straw into the steering wheel of his early automobiles and used hemp fibers to produce early car parts.

He was so enamored by the soybean that he had a suit made from soybean “wool.”

“The problem was,” Lee said, “he didn’t know how to clean it, so it never got washed.”

Mcclatchy-Tribune News Service

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

US / World

House intel panel debunks many Benghazi theories

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1, 8 Comments

 
A look at how FDA-approved robotic leg braces work

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

Marine with robotic leg braces gets Bronze Star

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
Oregon festival’s giant nutcracker: 41 feet

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

San Francisco window washer falls onto moving car

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Zookeepers had safety concerns before gorilla died

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

California storms bring scattered rain, mudslides

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4 | Gallery

 
Judge declares wrongly convicted woman innocent

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4 | Gallery

$139M deal reached in school molestation case

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
Agency rejects solar project in Silurian Valley

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Senate leader lays off dozens of office employees

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

 
UC expands legal services for immigrant students

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Man pleads not guilty to emailing nudies of ex

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Stymied? Republicans seek immigration response

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 5 Comments

LA animal shelter slashes prices on 100 pets

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5 | Gallery

 
Iran nuke talks stalled, despite Kerry efforts

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10, 1 Comment

Biden urges Russia to uphold east Ukraine truce

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Police: 3-year-old set fire that killed his family

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

93-year-old woman marks 75 years with same company

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
UK police spied on reporters for years, docs show

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Agency: Schools helped Lanza’s mom ‘appease’ him

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Bandits in Guinea steal suspected Ebola blood

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

With snow still piled high, Buffalo faces flooding

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
.

Opinion

 
Editorial Cartoons: Nov. 22, 2014

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Batson column falls short of truth

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8, 46 Comments

.

Living

Community Calendar: Nov. 22, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

 
Today in History: Nov. 22, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

My sister kicked Mom out of her house and won’t let her have the car

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A7

 
Horoscopes: Nov. 22, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A7

Blanket drive for homeless gets help from Colts player

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
.

Entertainment

Bill Cosby show set for Vegas casino canceled

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9

 
Matt Czuchry says ‘Good Wife’ arc is at right time

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9

‘Queen Latifah Show’ to end after its 2nd season

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9

 
TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B9

.

Sports

Vacaville downs Del Oro to advance to section semis

By Nick DeCicco | From Page: B1

 
Sparano savors 1st win with Raiders

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Ibanez, Cash, Wakamatsu finalists to manage Rays

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Federal judge denies sports betting in New Jersey

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

JC women’s basketball: Solano advances to tourney title game

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

 
Ciganda, Granada tied for lead at LPGA finale

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Sharks trade Demers to Stars for Dillon

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
NFL will hear Adrian Peterson’s appeal Dec. 2

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

49ers’ Dorsey is out of Sunday’s game against Redskins

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
France levels tie against Switzerland in Davis Cup

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
This date in sports history for Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

.

Business

Toyota recalls nearly 423K Lexuses for fuel leaks

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
Ford’s new F-150 to get 26 mpg, tops among pickups

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4, 1 Comment | Gallery

CEOs in 10 big mergers to get $430M: Equilar study

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
California unemployment unchanged at 7.3 percent

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

White House: Immigration steps would boost wages

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
.

Obituaries

.

Comics

Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

 
Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

 
Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

 
.

Home Seller 11/22/14

Ask a Designer: from clutter to decor

By The Associated Press | From Page: HSR2

Real estate transactions for Nov. 22, 2014

By Maureen Fissolo | From Page: HSR3

US 30-year mortgage rates drop to 3.99 percent

By The Associated Press | From Page: HSR3