Finding Sustainability in Surprising Places

Ford teams up with Jose Cuervo® to make sustainable materials from tequila byproduct.

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 these waste materials is abundant and often are underutilized. The materials can be acquired for a relatively low cost, and can help manufacturers like us, offset the underused glass fibers and talc to produce more sustainable, lightweight products.

At Ford, we began researching the use of sustainable materials for our vehicles in 2000. As a result, Ford vehicles now boast eight sustainable-based materials, including soy foam, castor oil, wheat straw, kenaf fiber, cellulose, wood, coconut fiber and rice hull. Today, we’re proud to be adding the agave plant to this list via an exciting new partnership with the Jose Cuervo® Tequila company. Together, we’re exploring the use of agave by-product from the tequila production process to create more sustainable bioplastics for next generation Ford vehicles.

Agave takes up to 10 years to grow large enough to be harvested for tequila. Once harvested, the heart of the plant is roasted, pressed, then fermented before extracting its juices for distillation. This process produces hundreds of pounds of agave waste fibers daily. A portion of the remaining fibers are used as compost for farming. Local artisans will often use the material for crafts and agave paper, but much of the material goes unused and is ultimately disposed of.

Today, an average vehicle contains about 400 pounds of plastic. Renewable bioplastics give us the opportunity to create lighter parts which can be equally durable, and in some cases more durable, than traditional plastic parts. We are now testing the agave bioplastic in both interior and exterior vehicle components, such as wiring harnesses, HVAC units and storage bins. Initial assessments suggest the agave material holds great promise due to its durability and aesthetic qualities.

For Ford owners, successfully developing a sustainable composite from agave could reduce vehicle weight, which would improve both fuel efficiency across our lineup of vehicles and Hybrids, and the battery range of our EV vehicles. The effort also enables us to reduce our use of petrochemicals and the impact of vehicle production on the environment.

This collaboration demonstrates our commitment to responsible environmental stewardship through the innovative use of biomaterials. Since 2008, we used soy foam as a replacement for petroleum oil in the seat cushions and headrests of our iconic Mustang. Today, we have soy foam in the seat cushions and headrests of every single vehicle in our North American lineup. As we continue to work with Jose Cuervo®, we look forward to the day when you'll find agave-based parts in every single vehicle in our lineup as well.

“There are about 400 pounds of plastic on a typical car. 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.”