Dearborn-based Ford Motor Co. is partnering with Jose Cuervo, a New Jersey tequila producer, to develop more sustainable bioplastics for vehicles using agave plant byproducts.
The companies are testing the durability and heat resistance of the new material, which could reduce vehicle weight and lower energy consumption. Targeted uses include interior and exterior components such as wiring harnesses, HVAC units, and storage bins.
“As a leader in the sustainability space, we are developing new technologies to efficiently employ discarded materials and fibers, while potentially reducing the use of petrochemicals and light-weighting our vehicles for desired fuel economy,” says Debbie Mielewski, senior technical leader of Ford’s sustainability research department.
The growth cycle of the agave plant is, at minimum, a seven-year process. Once harvested, the heart of the plant is roasted and then grinded, with its juices being extracted for distillation. Remnant fibers are then used to make compost for agave farms, agave paper, and now, bioplastic materials.
Ford began researching the use of sustainable materials in its vehicles in 2000. Today, the automaker uses eight sustainable-based materials including soy foam, castor oil, wheat straw, kenaf fiber, cellulose, wood, coconut fiber, and rice hulls.
“There are about 400 pounds of plastic on a typical car,” Mielewski says. “Our job is to find the right place for a green composite like this to help our impact on the planet.”
In Related News … Ford announced Monday several senior leadership changes.
Barb Samardzich, vice president and COO, Ford of Europe, has elected to retire Oct. 1 after more than 26 years. Succeeding Samardzich will be Steven Armstrong, 52, who will be named vice president and COO, Ford of Europe, effective Sept. 1. Armstrong currently is president, Ford South America, a position in which he has served since January 2014. In his new role, he will report to Jim Farley, Ford executive vice president and president, Europe, Middle East, and Africa.
Lyle Watters, 51, will replace Armstrong, and will be named vice president, Ford Motor Co., and president, Ford South America, effective Aug. 1. Watters will be responsible for leading all Ford operations in South America and will report to Joe Hinrichs, Ford executive vice president and president, The Americas.
In turn, Neil Schloss, 57, Ford vice president and treasurer, will add the role of CFO, Ford Smart Mobility LLC, a subsidiary formed to design, build, grow, and invest in emerging mobility services. In this role, effective Aug. 1, Schloss will have full responsibility for the financial operations of Ford Smart Mobility.
Schloss has served as treasurer since March 2007. With his added responsibilities, he will report to Bob Shanks, Ford’s CFO, and Jim Hackett, chairman, Ford Smart Mobility.