Climate Change and the Environment
Choosing More Sustainable Materials
Recycled-content carpets are used on many vehicles including the U.S. and European Ford Focus, the 2011 Explorer and the 2013 Escape.
Many European vehicles use recycled plastic replacement bumpers when original bumpers are damaged.
Seat fabrics in versions of the Ford Fiesta, Taurus, Mustang, Focus, F-150, Super Duty, Fusion and Escape Hybrid contain 25–100 percent recycled content.
Starting in 2011, all vehicles manufactured in North America use seat foam made with soy oil, which reduces CO2 emissions and decreases dependency on petroleum oil.
Many vehicles – including the all-new Ford Fusion, the Explorer and the European Fiesta – use high-strength steels, which weigh less than traditional steels but have the same or better performance.
Aluminum and Magnesium
Many vehicles – including the Lincoln MKT and Ford Kuga – use aluminum and magnesium parts, which are lighter weight than traditional steel.
In North America, the 2011 Ford Fiesta, Econoline and F-250 use 50–75 percent recycled content in the headliner fabric.
Recycled plastics and nylon are used in non-surface parts on many vehicles including fan shrouds, battery trays, heater/air conditioning housing, wheel arch liners, engine fans and covers, and underbody systems.
Visible exterior parts
The 2011 Super Duty® uses recycled-content plastics on a range of parts, including the bumper valences, license place brackets and fog lamp bezels.
Recycled denim scrap from apparel production is used in sound absorption materials on many vehicles, including the 2012 Ford Focus.
This noise-dampening part on the 2011 Ford Explorer is made of recycled steel from F-150 door panels, thereby reducing manufacturing-related CO2 emissions.
Injection-molded plastics reinforced with renewable wheat straw were implemented in the third-row storage bins on the 2010 Ford Flex. Wheat straw is a byproduct of growing wheat, and is commonly burned. Using this material as a reinforcement in plastics thus has environmental benefits.
The Lincoln Navigator, MKX and MKS use engineered wood from certified, sustainably managed forests, which reduce input materials and waste sent to landfill.
Natural-fiber-reinforced compression molded plastics
Multiple European vehicles use compression-molded plastics. These vehicles include the Ford Mondeo, which uses plastics made with 50 percent kenaf and 50 percent polypropylene. In North America, a kenaf-reinforced armrest is used on the 2012 Ford Escape and a coconut fiber trunk liner is used on the 2012 Focus Electric.
We are working to improve the sustainability of our vehicles by using materials that are more sustainable from a total lifecycle perspective. This includes increasing the use of recycled, renewable, recyclable and lightweight materials. Recycled materials incorporate post-consumer and/or post-industrial waste materials; renewable materials are made from plant-based materials; and lightweight materials use special materials and/or designs that provide the same or better performance as other alternatives with less weight.
Our efforts to increase recycled materials focus on nonmetallic parts, which historically have had little or no recycled content. In 2009, we implemented a comprehensive recycled resin strategy. As part of that strategy, a wide range of parts on vehicles manufactured in North America are made out of plastics from post-consumer recycled waste, such as detergent bottles, tires and automotive battery casings. The vehicle parts containing recycled content include underbody and aerodynamic shields, fender liners, splash shields, stone pecking cuffs, battery housing covers and base plates, wheel arch liners, heating and ventilation components, fan shrouds and powertrain undershields. In 2010, we improved this strategy to include fabric rear-wheel liners that are produced from materials derived from 30 to 40 percent recycled content. These parts are 50 percent lighter than plastic wheel liners, and they absorb sound, which will enable improved noise vibration and harshness performance while potentially reducing the need for sound-deadening insulators, sprays and foams. We continue to expand the use of recycled plastics into additional parts where they meet performance and cost requirements.
This recycled materials resin strategy saves money and reduces landfill waste. We estimate that Ford saves approximately $8 million per year and diverts approximately 50 million pounds of plastics from landfills each year (depending on vehicle production volume) by using these recycled materials.
We are also using post-consumer recycled nylon in many under-hood parts, including air cleaner housings, engine fans, fan shrouds, HVAC temperature valves, engine covers, cam covers and carbon canisters. We are using nylon resin made from recycled carpets for cylinder head covers in the Ford Escape, Fusion, Mustang and F-150. So far, we have recycled nearly 4.1 million pounds of carpet into cylinder head covers, the equivalent of a carpet the size of more than 150 football fields. Use of this recycled material has prevented the use of more than 430,000 gallons of oil.
In Europe, we strive to use recycled polymers in all of our vehicles, when such materials provide a more sustainable solution. In addition to recycled content in our new vehicle parts, we are also recycling damaged parts collected by dealers. In the U.K., we are recycling bumpers that have been damaged in accidents or replaced in service. Ford dealers collect the bumpers, which are recycled into new bumpers and other plastic parts. Previously, dealers had to pay to dispose of these bumpers as waste. Currently, dealers store them in a container that is collected by Ford for free. In 2009, more than 23,000 bumpers (equating to 70 metric tons of plastic) across the U.K. Ford dealer network were diverted from landfills through this program.
Across our global operations, we are also using recycled materials for interior parts. This can be much more challenging than using recycled materials for underbody, subsurface and exterior black parts, because it is a challenge to achieve the necessary appearance and performance using recycled materials. We are continuing to expand our use of recycled seat fabrics and seat components that meet all appearance and performance requirements.
In North America since the 2009 model year, the seat fabrics in most of our new or redesigned vehicles are made from at least 25 percent post-industrial or post-consumer recycled content. Thirty-seven different fabrics meeting the requirements have been developed and incorporated into Ford vehicles. In addition, many of our non-woven headliner fabrics now contain 50 to 75 percent recycled yarns, depending on the color.
On the Focus Electric, Ford will be the first automaker to use REPREVE – a hybrid fiber made from recycled plastic water bottles and post-industrial waste – for seating fabric. This means that each vehicle will have seat fabric made from approximately 22 plastic, 16-ounce water bottles. Ford is partnering with the yarn manufacturer, Unifi, to collect bottles at the North American International Autoshow in Detroit, the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, and other events throughout the year for use in the Focus Electric seat fabric.
The following table highlights some of the recycled-content interior materials in our recent vehicles:
Interior Recycled Materials Achievements
|2013 Ford Escape||Carpet: 100 percent recycled content from post-consumer and post-industrial recycled yarns||Reiter||
|Seat fabric (XLS model): 27 percent post-industrial recycled yarns||JCI/Thierry||
|2013 Ford Fusion S and SE series||Seat fabric bolster: 100 percent recycled content from post-consumer and post-industrial recycled yarns||Sage Automotive Interiors, Unifi||
|Seat fabric insert: 37 percent recycled content from post-consumer and post-industrial recycled yarns||
|2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid and Sport Series||Seat fabric: 100 percent recycled content from post-consumer and post-industrial recycled yarns||Sage Automotive Interiors, Unifi||
|2012 Ford Focus Electric||Seat fabric: 100 percent recycled content from post-consumer and post-industrial recycled yarns||Unifi
Sage Interiors Automotive
|2011–12 Ford Fiesta – North America||Seat fabric: 25 percent post-consumer recycled yarns||Aunde||
|Non-woven headliner: 75 percent post-consumer recycled yarns||Freudenberg||
|Carpet: 100 percent recycled content from post-consumer and post-industrial recycled yarns||Peltzer||
|2011–12 Ford Explorer||Seat fabric: 25–30 percent post-industrial recycled yarns||Aunde, Guilford, IAC||
Carpet backing (base series): carpet insulation 40 percent post-industrial recycled yarns
Carpet backing (Limited series): carpet insulation 25–28 percent post-industrial recycled yarns
|2011 Ford Econoline||Headliner fabric: 50–75 percent post-consumer recycled content||Freudenberg||
|2011 Ford F-250||Headliner fabric: 50–75 percent post-consumer recycled content||Freudenberg||
|Seat fabrics: 25 percent post-industrial recycled yarns||Sage Automotive Interiors, Guilford, Aunde||
|2010–12 Ford Taurus SHO||Seat fabric insert: 100 percent post-consumer recycled yarns||Miko Fabrics||
|2010–12 Ford Taurus SEL||
Seat fabric insert: 25 percent post-industrial recycled yarns
Seat bolster fabric: 30 percent post-industrial recycled yarns
|2010–2014 Mustang Base Series||
Seat fabric insert: 18 percent post-industrial recycled yarns
Seat bolster fabric: 30 percent post-industrial recycled yarns
Sage Automotive Interiors
|2010 Ford F-150 XL, XLT and FX4||Seat fabrics: 25 percent post-industrial recycled yarns||Sage Automotive Interiors, Guilford, Aunde||
|2010 European Ford Focus RS (fabric option)||Seat fabric insert: 100 percent post-consumer recycled content||Miko Fabrics||
|2010–11 Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan Hybrids||Seat fabric: 85 percent post-industrial recycled yarns and 15 percent solution-dyed yarns||Sage Automotive Interiors||
|2008–2011 Ford Escape Hybrid||Seat fabrics: 100 percent post-industrial recycled yarns||Aunde, Interface||
We have also expanded the use of recycled materials in several visible exterior applications. For example, the 2011 Ford Super Duty® will use material derived from recycled battery casings on several aesthetic parts, such as license plate brackets, the 4x2’s bumper valence panel and the fog lamp bezels. These parts are “molded in color” and color-matched to provide visual harmony. The Super Duty is also using post-industrial and post-consumer recycled plastic for its fascia lower valence. This plastic was a finalist for the 2009 Society of Plastics Engineers Innovation awards.
Recycled materials do not mean low-quality materials. Our researchers work to ensure that post-industrial and post-consumer recycled plastic materials have the same level of quality and same material specifications as the virgin material parts. In some cases, we are working to recycle the materials from our auto parts right back into the same use. For example, we are developing methods for recycling and cleaning post-industrial recycled fascia and bumper scrap so that it can be molded into new fascias and bumpers. We are even working to “upcycle” certain materials – that is, recycle it into uses with higher material and performance requirements than the virgin material. For example, we are working on upcycling post-consumer laundry and milk bottles into blow-molded automotive components. In addition, we are developing a method to recycle polyurethane foam scrap to make new polyurethane foam components instead of landfilling it at the end of its life.
We are actively researching and developing renewable materials and applications that will reduce our dependence on petroleum and reduce our carbon footprint, while providing superior performance. Research scientists at Ford’s Research and Innovation Center in the U.S., Ford’s Research Center in Aachen, Germany, and Ford of Brazil are focused on developing automotive foams, plastics and composites that are derived from renewable resources.
Since 2002, our researchers have pioneered the research and development of soy-based polyurethane foams for automotive applications. The use of soy foam reduces CO2 emissions, decreases dependency on oil and increases the utilization of renewable agricultural commodities. Soy foam also offers the potential for cost savings as well as insulation from petroleum product price swings.
Many technical difficulties had to be overcome to produce soy-based foams that met all of our stringent durability and performance specifications for seating. In 2007, Ford was the world’s first automaker to implement this innovative technology (on the seat cushions and seat backs of the 2008 Ford Mustang), and we have since migrated its use to 23 vehicle programs. As of 2011, all Ford Motor Company vehicles built in North America have soy foam in their seat cushions and backs. In addition, 75 percent of headrests produced in North America have soy foam, and the headliner on the Ford Escape is made from sustainable bio-based foam.
Ford currently has soy foam seats in more than 5 million vehicles on the road, which reduces petroleum oil usage by more than 1 million pounds (or 31,500 barrels) annually. Lifecycle analyses that compare soy foams with traditional petroleum-based foams show a net decrease of 5.5 pounds of CO2 per pound of soy oil used. Ford’s use of soy foam reduces our annual CO2 emissions by 20 million pounds – the annual equivalent of more than 1,500 typical American households. In addition, soy foam has up to 24 percent renewable content, and formulations can reduce volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions by 67 percent.
Ford and our supplier partner Recycled Polymeric Materials (RPM) launched new “green” seals and gaskets that incorporate both 17 percent bio-renewable soybean oils and 25 percent post-consumer, recycled tires. This material is currently used in 11 of our vehicle lines, including the Ford Escape, F-150, Focus, Mustang and Taurus. The seals also offer a weight savings, which improves fuel economy. In total, we have removed more than 1,675 tons of weight from our vehicles by using these new seals and gaskets. The use of post-consumer tires in these gaskets and seals also diverts 250,000 used tires from landfills.
Ford also pioneered the use of soy oil in rubber. By using renewable soy oil as a 25 percent replacement for petroleum oil, Ford researchers more than doubled the rubber’s “stretchability” and at the same time reduced its environmental impact. Soy-based rubber parts – such as radiator deflector shields, air baffles, cup holder inserts and floor mats – are under consideration for future Ford vehicle programs.
We have introduced plant-based castor oil foam in the instrument panel of the 2012 Ford Focus and 2013 Ford Escape. The castor oil foam, which includes more than 10 percent renewable content, provides a more sustainable interior foam solution than petroleum-based foam and does not compete with food sources. It also reduces scrap due to improved flow and processing characteristics, is more durable than previously used materials, and reduces production time by more than 40 percent.
Ford Research has also begun work on new technologies to make urethane foams even greener. One of these innovative technologies may enable us to use old foam scrap (including soy foams) as a feedstock for new foam. Polyurethane makes up 5 percent of total solid municipal waste (about 1.3 million tons) in the U.S., and almost 24 percent of that is attributed to the automotive industry. The landfilling of foam at the end of an automobile’s useful life is a significant environmental issue, and one that we continue to work to address. Our initial results formulating both rigid and flexible recycled foams in the laboratory have shown promise. We are excited about the possibility of recycling foam because it is prevalent in landfills and because the current recycling of foam is limited to low-requirement applications such as carpet backing.
We also use renewable materials to reinforce plastic and for other applications in vehicle materials. For example, the average Ford vehicle sold in Europe uses between 10 and 20 kilograms of renewable materials, depending on the vehicle size class. Almost 300 parts used across Ford’s European vehicles are derived from sources such as cotton, wood, flax, hemp, jute and natural rubber. In Europe we use Lignotech, a compression-molded polypropylene and wood material in the door panels of the Ford Focus and Fiesta. We also use kenaf to reinforce compression-molded plastic in door parts. We have used this material in Europe for many years in door-panel inserts. For example, the Ford Mondeo uses a mixture of 50 percent kenaf plant fiber and 50 percent polypropylene in the compression-molded interior door panel.
We also use kenaf to reinforce plastic in North America – in particular in the door interior bolsters on the Ford Escape. Kenaf, which is a tropical plant that looks similar to bamboo and is related to cotton, replaces some of the oil-based resin in the plastic. The use of kenaf in this part is anticipated to offset 300,000 pounds of oil-based resin per year in North America. In addition, the material reduces the weight of the door bolsters by 25 percent, which translates into better fuel efficiency. In North America we also use a coconut-fiber trunk liner in the 2012 Focus Electric.
Ford introduced the world’s first application of wheat-straw-reinforced plastic, which we developed in conjunction with the Canadian BioCar initiative, in the third-row storage bins of the 2010 Ford Flex. Wheat straw is used to replace the glass fibers or minerals commonly used to reinforce plastic parts. The use of wheat straw is a highly efficient use of natural fiber, because it is a byproduct of growing wheat that is typically discarded. Furthermore, the use of wheat-straw-reinforced plastics in the 2010 Flex storage bins reduced our petroleum usage by some 20,000 pounds and CO2 emissions by about 30,000 pounds annually. The material weighs up to 15 percent less than plastic reinforced with glass or talc. Additional applications of wheat-straw-reinforced plastics under consideration by the Ford team include console bins and trays, climate-control air ducts, door trim panel components and armrest liners.
We are using engineered wood technology, which comes from a certified, sustainably managed forest and is a renewable resource, on several interior applications in North American vehicles. This wood, which is harvested under strict guidelines, is assembled into a composite and then stained to give it a warm, rich appearance. In addition, the use of engineered wood eliminates many of the extra processing steps necessary in producing solid wood automotive trim parts, and the processing required is more environmentally friendly. For example, water-based stain can be used instead of solvent-based, and a solvent wash to remove oils is not needed. Additional bleaching and sealing operations are eliminated, which greatly reduces the production of volatile organic compounds. Engineered wood technology uses input materials more efficiently, so less waste material is sent to landfills. Engineered ebony wood was implemented on the 2008 Lincoln Truck, the 2008 and 2009 Navigator, the 2008 MKX and the 2009 MKS. Ford is also exploring other wood veneer alternatives, such as veneers from managed sustainable forests, to reduce our environmental impact footprint.
To maintain our sustainable materials leadership in the future, Ford researchers are developing and formulating new materials and applications for other renewable materials, such as corn-based, compostable and natural-fiber-filled plastics. These materials will help to reduce the resource burden and waste generated and will help to reduce the weight of vehicles, thereby improving fuel economy.
Ford Research has initiated a project to develop sustainable resources for rubber materials, in conjunction with the Ohio State University. We are looking at two sources – dandelion root and guayule (a plant grown in the Southwest U.S.) – as possible replacements for natural and synthetic rubber in our plastic materials. Rubber-modified plastics are common, especially in interior applications where low temperature impact is important.
In 2009, Ford joined a three-year research project investigating a new wood/plastic compound known as “liquid wood.” Early findings show excellent recycling potential, as the material can be reprocessed up to five times and has an overall near-neutral CO2 balance.
Finally, Ford researchers have made considerable inroads with polylactic acid (PLA) – a biodegradable plastic derived completely from the sugars in corn, sugar beets, sweet potatoes, sugar cane, Indian grass and other plants. When plastic parts made from PLA reach the end of their useful life, they can biodegrade in 90 to 120 days. In contrast, traditional petroleum-based plastics are projected to remain in landfills for hundreds of years. We continue to assess bio-yarns for use in making plant-based fabrics. Several technical issues must be overcome before these compostable plastics and fabrics meet our stringent wear, performance and durability requirements, but they hold great promise for future vehicles.
We are actively pursuing the development and use of cutting-edge materials – including high-strength steels, lightweight metals such as aluminum and magnesium, and composite materials – to reduce the weight of our vehicles and improve their fuel economy without compromising safety or performance. For more information on our use of lightweight materials, please see Weight Reductions in the Sustainable Technologies and Alternative Fuels plan section.