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Ford’s Progress with Sustainable Materials has "Just Begun"

Wednesday, August 30, 2017 Ford Technology

Ford’s Progress with Sustainable Materials has "Just Begun"

Commitment to sustainable components is "in Ford's DNA," Ford Country GM says

Las Vegas, July 25, 2017 – Using soy-based, sustainable foam in seat cushions and seat backs has allowed Ford to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 20 million pounds a year since 2011, but the leader of the research effort isn't exactly taking the time to sit back on those cushions and bask in the glow of accomplishment.

Rather, Ford will continue to pursue the use of sustainable materials, often working in tandem with leading companies and academic researchers, Debbie Mielewski, Ford's Senior Technical Leader of Materials Sustainability, said in her keynote address to the 2017 Refocus Sustainability & Recycling Summit in Orlando.

“It looks like we’ve done a lot at Ford, but in actuality we’ve just started,” Mielewski said.

This comes as good, though not entirely unexpected, news to Brad Cambridge, general manager of the premier Ford dealership in Southern Nevada, Ford Country. Customers regularly inquire about exactly how Ford integrates sustainable products, such as integrated castor oil, cellulose, coconut fiber, nectar and recycled bottles into vehicles.

“Our customers are smart; they know these materials make vehicles lighter and therefore more fuel efficient,” Cambridge said. “So the fact that we're just getting started with this research is exciting. It must be in Ford's DNA.”

Ford's use of soy-based materials started in the 1940s

Mielewski was entrusted with managing Ford's plastics research in 2000. At the time, using soy in vehicles may have sounded far-fetched. But what many people didn't know was that Ford's Dearborn, Michigan, plant had grown soybeans to make paint for cars it produced in the 1940s.

In 2007, Ford became the world's first vehicle maker to use soy-based foam in seat cushions and seat backs. And since 2011, all Ford vehicles built in North America come equipped with these features. Today, more than 15 million such Ford vehicles travel American roads.

By reducing its carbon dioxide emissions by 20 million pounds a year, Ford matches the emissions from more than 1,500 average American households – not to mention 5 million pounds of petroleum oil per year.

Ford Invents for the Future, Knowing Oil Prices will Rise

Mielewski credits the persistence and long-term vision of her research team. Certainly, their tenacity is not spurred by oil prices, which have been comparatively low nationwide.

“When oil prices are low, we need to keep moving forward because we know oil prices will go up,” she said.

To prepare for this eventuality, Mielewski's team continues to research two other uses for soy foam:

  • Ford wants to expand the use of “green” seals and gaskets that use soybean oils and recycled tires. This combination is used in the FordFocus, Fusion, Flex and Taurus. In 2013, the seals and gaskets used about 64,000 pounds of soybean oil and diverted about 112,000 pounds of used tires from landfills.
  • Ford wants to finesse its use of plant-based castor oil foam, incorporated in the instrument panel of the 2012 Focus and 2013 Escape for greater durability.

Mr. Cambridge can personally vouch for this success – and the positive feedback he hears from customers who are heartened that Ford has no intention of taking its corporate foot off the gas of sustainability.

About Ford Country Las Vegas

Ford Country Las Vegas, part of the Gaudin Motor Company family, was established in 1996 and continues to lead in the industry as a top 100 Ford dealership in the country. Located in the Henderson Valley Automall, Ford Country is made up of highly trained professionals who share a steadfast commitment to its customers and their needs. Ford Country is designed to serve as both a credited dealership, anchored by a state-of-the-art open showroom, and a full service automotive department that features Quick Lane maintenance for customer convenience. The facility also invites guests to dine at Ford Country's popular Mustang Sally's Diner, adjacent to the showroom and features 60s style décor and delicious diner-style cuisine. Ford Country is home to Motorsport Enthusiast, a custom shop that offers automotive accessories and apparel. For more information, visit www.FordCountryLV.com

Press Contact:
Julie Cane
Corporate Director of Marketing
C. 702.236.6336

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