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Ford Take A Shot In The Dark With Tequila

By Maddy Price
Wednesday, July 20, 2016 - 15:34

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Ford Motor Company is teaming up with Jose Cuervo® to explore the use of the tequila producer’s agave plant by-product to develop more sustainable bioplastics for use in Ford vehicles.

Ford and Jose Cuervo are testing the bioplastic for use in vehicle interior and exterior components such as wiring harnesses, Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) units and storage bins. Initial assessments suggest the material holds great promise due to its durability and aesthetic qualities. Success in developing a sustainable composite could reduce vehicle weight and lower energy consumption, while paring the use of petrochemicals and the impact of vehicle production on the environment.

“At Ford, we aim to reduce our impact on the environment,” said Debbie Mielewski, Ford senior technical leader, sustainability research department. “As a leader in the sustainability space, we are developing new technologies to efficiently employ discarded materials and fibres, while potentially reducing the use of petrochemicals and light-weighting our vehicles for desired fuel economy.”

The growth cycle of the agave plant is a minimum seven-year process. Once harvested, the heart of the plant is roasted, before grinding and extracting its juices for distillation. Jose Cuervo uses a portion of the remaining agave fibres as compost for its farms, and local artisans make crafts and agave paper from the remnants.

Now, as part of Jose Cuervo’s broader sustainability plan, the tequila maker is joining forces with the automaker to develop a new way to use its remnant fibres.

“Jose Cuervo is proud to be working with Ford to further develop our agave sustainability plan,” said Sonia Espinola, director of heritage for Cuervo Foundation and master tequilera. “As the world’s No. 1-selling tequila, we could never have imagined the hundreds of agave plants we were cultivating as a small family business would eventually multiply to millions. This collaboration brings two great companies together to develop innovative, earth-conscious materials.”

Like Ford, Jose Cuervo is family-owned and operated. Founded in 1795, it has been making tequila for more than 220 years with the same experience, craftsmanship and recipes that have been handed down generation through generation.

The collaboration with Jose Cuervo is the latest example of Ford’s innovative approach to product and environmental stewardship through the use of biomaterials. Ford began researching the use of sustainable materials in its vehicles in 2000. Today, we use eight sustainable-based materials in our vehicles including soy foam, castor oil, wheat straw, kenaf fibre, cellulose, wood, coconut fibre and rice hulls.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme, 5 billion metric tons of agricultural biomass waste is produced annually. A by-product of agriculture, the supply of materials is abundant and often underutilised. The materials can be relatively low cost, and can help manufacturers to offset the use of glass fibres and talc for more sustainable, lightweight products.

Ford already has experience using agave fibres, following a prototype glove box using sisal, a fibre from a specific type of agave.With this project Ford is going a step further by using sustainable sourcing of the remnant material.

“There are about 400 pounds [181kg] of plastic on a typical car,” said Mielewksi. “Our job is to find the right place for a green composite like this to help our impact on the planet. It is work that I’m really proud of, and it could have broad impact across numerous industries.”

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