Since re-introducing the use of eco-friendly, sustainable materials in its car models some years ago, Ford Motor Co. (Dearborn, MI) has explored a host of innovative alternatives to the use of petroleum-based plastics. Re-introduced? Well, in the 1930s, Henry Ford was already using soybeans, hemp, wood pulp and jute to make car components. However, with the advent of a host of inexpensive plastics, the use of natural products was largely abandoned.
Over the past decade or so, things have changed. Interest in bioplastics has revived, and major carmakers, including Ford, have started incorporating natural fibers and biopolymers into their various models. Among the first developments at Ford was the introduction of soy foam headrests and seats and natural-fiber-reinforced storage bins. Since that time, the company has used, among other things, coconut husks, tomato fibers and even corn-based tires as part of the effort to "green" its cars.
Ford is committed to delivering vehicles with leading fuel efficiency while targeting at least 25% clean technology in interior materials across the entire lineup. This has led company initiatives such as finding ways to redirect plastics from landfill for use in creating innovative materials.
To that end, the carmaker has worked over the past three years with Unifi Manufacturing (Greensboro, NC) to bring Repreve, an environmentally responsible, high-performance fiber, to various Ford vehicles. Repreve debuted in the electric Ford Focus in 2012. Now Ford has announced that Repreve is also available in the new Ford F-150, part of the Ford F-Series, America's best-selling truck.
Unifi's Repreve is a fiber that contains recycled materials, including postindustrial waste and used PET bottles. Making Repreve uses less petroleum and emits fewer greenhouse gases than conventional PET production.
By using this recycled material, Ford will divert more than five million plastic bottles from landfills this year.
"By using Repreve in the all-new Ford F-150, we are reconfirming our commitment to using renewable and recyclable materials in our vehicles," said Carol Kordich, Lead Designer, Global Sustainability Materials Strategy Development. "We are always looking for ways to incorporate more innovative and sustainable materials into our vehicles."
Ford is the only automaker to use Repreve in its vehicles. Ford is currently using Repreve in five vehicles around the world, making it a truly global material, and it represents Ford's larger commitment to reduce, reuse and recycle as part of the company' s global sustainability strategy to lessen its environmental footprint.