Ford trying to make car parts from tequila waste
Agave byproducts may be used to produce plastics for Ford motor vehicles. (Relaxnews)
Published Thursday, July 21, 2016 9:53AM EDT
Ford Motor Company is teaming up with Jose Cuervo to explore the use of the tequila producer's agave plant byproduct to develop more sustainable bioplastics to employ in Ford vehicles.
Disproving the old adage that inspiration can't be found at the bottom of a bottle, Ford is examining the properties of agave -- the plant from which we get tequila -- to see if it can be used as a greener alternative to traditional plastics, particularly those derived from petrochemicals, in its vehicles.
"At Ford, we aim to reduce our impact on the environment," said Debbie Mielewski, Ford senior technical leader, sustainability research department. "There are about 400 pounds of plastic on a typical car."
And as regulations regarding sustainability toughen, so must manufacturers' efforts to source kinder materials or to effectively recycle those in use in existing vehicles as they reach the end of their lifecycle.
All of which is why agave offers so much potential appeal -- its fibers are durable and it is also a very aesthetically pleasing material.
However, rather than simply chopping up and processing a crop of agave, Ford is instead partnering with tequila company Jose Cuervo to see how agave waste from producing the drink can be repurposed.
It takes seven years for an agave plant to mature sufficiently for harvest. The heart of each plant is roasted and ground as part of the distillation process and some of the remaining fibers are used again either by Jose Cuervo as compost or by local artisans to create special paper.
"Jose Cuervo is proud to be working with Ford to further develop our agave sustainability plan," said Sonia Espinola, director of heritage for Cuervo Foundation and master tequilera.
"We are developing new technologies to efficiently employ discarded materials and fibers, while potentially reducing the use of petrochemicals and light-weighting our vehicles for desired fuel economy," said Mielewski.
Indeed, UN estimates put the amount of biomass generated globally every year solely via agriculture at 5 billion metric tons and much of this ‘waste' could easily be reused or repurposed by other industries, not just car manufacturers.
"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," said Mielewski.