By Alex Perdikis
Why this information isnít all over the news is nothing short of unbelievable. For over a decade, Ford Motor Company has not only begun to transfigure its image into one that glistens with an eco-friendly green, but the company has also been transforming its real-world business into a tangible eco-friendly innovator. While lip service to the ethics of green thinking is plentiful in automobile manufacturing (and other industries), Ford talks the talk and walks the walk.
Fordís initiatives and their concrete successes at going green are so comprehensive, it would be overwhelming (albeit interesting) to cover all of them here. Letís consider three of the more unusual ways Ford is creating an environmentally sound auto manufacturing business.
Recycling Aluminum Taken To A Whole New Level
Remember how, as kids, we recycled soda cans for change to spend on candy? You probably never thought a car could be made out of those aluminum cans you collected. Thatís the stuff of fiction, right? Well, not exactly. Ford has undertaken massive aluminum recycling initiatives that are producing real cars. OK, maybe the cars arenít made from soda cans, but Fordís got a pretty spectacular process nonetheless.
Fordís F-150 full-size pickup, the best-selling vehicle in the U.S., is an aluminum-bodied car. During the stamping process, which forms the aluminum coil into vehicle panels, 30Ė40 percent of the metal is turned into scrap. According to Green Car Reports, Ford recycles 20 million pounds of scrap each month using a closed-loop system. This means that the scrap metal left over from the production of the trucksí body panels is taken from the Dearborn Stamping Plant in Michigan. As Ford describes it, the scrap is returned to the aluminum suppliers to filter out impurities. The molten scrap is then reshaped into aluminum coil. Ultimately, Fordís loop is closed when the recycled aluminum comes back to the Dearborn Stamping Plant and is used in the production of other F-150 body panels.
Whatís the impact? Itís all good, as they say. Green Car Reports indicates that Fordís recycling process eliminates a startling amount of greenhouse gas emissions connected with the production of aluminumó95 percent! Due to aluminumís inherent properties, considerably less energy is necessary to recycle scrap than to refine new aluminum. Research done by Automotive Science Group (ASG) found that the 2016 Ford F-150 has the ďsmallest life-cycle carbon footprint of any full-size truck in the North American market.Ē†ASG awarded Fordís 2016 F-150 three prestigious honors largely associated with the companyís environmental and socially sustainable practices. The awards testify to the fact that Fordís definitely walking the eco-friendly walk!
Sleek and Sustainable Plant-Based and Recycled Fabrics
Did you know that Henry Ford himself used plant-based materialsóspecifically from soybeansóat his company? Now, Ford Motor Company is manifesting the founderís vision on a large scale in what it aptly calls its ďFarm to CarĒ campaign, discussed previously on our site.
Fordís research and work inventing socially and environmentally responsible practices for its car fabrics is a vast subject. So, letís just review one sustainability measure at a glance: plant-based products.
Biomaterials are being integrated into the interior of every Ford vehicle made in North America. The Wall Street Journal interviewed Fordís senior technical materials sustainability leader, Debbie Mielewski. Sheís tasked with replacing the 400 pounds of petroleum-based products in Fordís vehicles with greener, more sustainable materials. Beginning with the 2007 Mustang, Ford launched its soybean-based foam for back- and headrests as well as seat cushions. Now the foam is in every Ford-made vehicle in North America. Ford has partnered with Jose Cuervo to use its agave fiber waste products to reinforce interior plastics for seat trim and storage bins. Other materials in use or in experimental stages at Ford include tomato fiber, a waste product of Heinz ketchup; cellulose from tree fiber; and out-of-circulation dollar bills.
You donít have to imagine the benefits of Fordís environmental feats because theyíre real. They include reduced reliance on fossil-based petroleum, reduced CO2 emissions, productive use of waste material that would otherwise rot in landfills, and increasingly sustainable practices that should influence innovation in all industries.
From Fumes to Fuel
Most people couldnít correctly guess that one of the most expensive components in the production of a vehicle is paint. Thatís rightówhat we normally think of as one of the cheapest ways to update our home interiors costs mega bucks in the auto industry. Given the amount of paint used in Ford plants, consider all the noxious fumes that must come from the solvent-based paints, which contain those unfriendly volatile organic compounds (VOCs). What can be done about it? Ford, in cooperation with Detroit Edison (DTE), has answered that question.
The result of their cooperation was the innovative Fumes-to-Fuel (FTF) system. This system burns paint fumes, destroying virtually all VOCs while producing electricity to power a plant. Since 2005, the full-scale FTF system has been in use in Fordís Michigan Truck Plant, in Wayne Michigan. According to ReliablePlant, ďThe program burns one-third of the fumes in one paint booth, yet 45Ė50 kilowatts of electricity are producedóenough to meet the typical demand of an average suburban block of houses.Ē The only byproducts of Fordís Fumes-to-Fuel system are small amounts of water vapor, CO2 and nitrogen oxides. The FTF system is the reason the Environmental Protection Agency awarded Ford the Clean Air Excellence award in 2003.
Even if Fordís innovations are not well-known by the general public, the companyís products are proving to be socially and environmentally friendly. Hopefully consumers see that Ford isnít just working to boost its bottom line but also striving to serve the public good.