Materials are an important element of a vehicle’s sustainability at all stages of its lifecycle. The selection of materials can influence the safety, fuel economy and performance of the vehicle, as well as the ability to recycle or reuse the vehicle’s components at the end of its life. The selection of materials can also have implications throughout our value chain. A material can be more or less sustainable based on a number of factors, including its origin (virgin, renewable or recycled), the resources and manufacturing methods used to process it, the emissions produced throughout its lifecycle, and its application.
Ford has been working for many years to increase the use of recycled and renewable materials and to reduce the use of undesirable materials. Vehicles in North America typically are composed of 20 to 25 percent post-consumer recycled material by weight, primarily due to the extensive use of metals with recycled content (see What is in a Vehicle? for detail). Therefore, we have concentrated our efforts on developing new uses for recycled materials in the nonmetallic portions of our vehicles, which are typically composed of virgin materials. While the amount of recycled content in each vehicle varies, we are continually increasing the amount of recycled material used in each vehicle line and have implemented a number of innovative uses of sustainable materials (see Choosing More Sustainable Materials). As described in the section on Design for Lifecycle Sustainability, we use tools such as Design for Sustainability, lifecycle assessment and lifecycle costing to help us make beneficial materials choices.
For many years, Ford has had a Voluntary Recycled Content Usage Policy in North America, which sets goals for the use of nonmetallic recycled content in each vehicle and increases those targets year by year and model by model. Under this program, recycled materials are selected for all of our vehicles whenever technically and economically feasible. We are now developing sustainable materials requirements for new vehicle programs and significantly refreshed vehicle lines to increase the recycled and renewable content, and we are developing specific, numerical, model-over-model improvement targets.
We are also continuing to migrate successful applications of recycled and renewable content across more vehicles for increased environmental benefit. We are focusing on materials technologies that improve environmental and social performance and reduce costs and weight. To facilitate this, we are working with our commodity business planners, materials purchasers and materials engineers to develop a comprehensive list of cost-effective sustainable materials that can be implemented across multiple parts and vehicle lines. All recycled and renewable materials on this list are evaluated versus comparable virgin grades, to guarantee appropriate physical properties and the same level of component performance that would be obtained with virgin materials. By combining sustainable materials goals for updated or redesigned vehicles with sustainable materials identification and testing processes, we are standardizing and broadening the use of sustainable materials in our vehicles.
As we introduce sustainable materials, we are conscious that recycled materials are not always the preferable solution. For example, we take into consideration whether recycled materials may increase weight or have significant energy demand in collection or recycling. We also consider the availability of a local recycled-material feedstock versus the need for a global commonality of materials. Our global materials strategy has dramatically reduced the number of materials we specify and use, to maintain consistent quality and enable cost reductions. In some cases, the introduction of recycled and renewable materials will run counter to that commonization progress, since the feedstocks for these materials can vary by region. For example, it is often more efficient to use local waste materials that divert waste from local landfills, than to ship waste-material inputs across the globe. We are working to ensure that we use local materials as a feedstock for our recycled content materials.
As our approach to sustainable materials continues to evolve, we are developing and implementing an integrated sustainable materials strategy. Progress on this effort includes the following:
Many commodity-purchasing plans already list recycled-content materials as a preferred material option, including those for battery trays, battery shields and wheel arch liners. In addition, we developed a comprehensive resin strategy that requires the use of recycled plastics for underbody and aerodynamic shields, fender liners, splash shields, stone pecking cuffs and radiator air deflector shields manufactured in North America.
We have also developed a material specification that defines post-consumer, post-industrial and depolymerized recycled content and ensures that the use of in-house scrap is not counted toward recycling targets. We have a material specification for recycled content in a range of plastics and textiles and are working on specifications for renewable materials. These specifications make it easier for product engineers to choose sustainable material options.