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Ford, Jose Cuervo team up to make bioplastic car parts from agave

Researchers are testing the material’s durability and heat resistance for potential use in vehicle interior and exterior components such as wiring harnesses and storage bins.


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July 20, 2016 by Canadian Plastics

The Ford Motor Co. has announced it has teamed up with tequila maker Jose Cuervo to explore the use of Jose Cuervo’s agave plant byproduct to develop more sustainable bioplastics to employ in Ford vehicles.

Ford and Jose Cuervo are testing the bioplastic for use in vehicle interior and exterior components such as wiring harnesses, HVAC units and storage bins. Initial assessments suggest the material holds great promise due to its durability and aesthetic qualities. The result could reduce vehicle weight and lower energy consumption, while paring the use of petrochemicals and the impact of vehicle production on the environment.

The growth cycle of the agave plant is a minimum seven-year process. Once harvested, the heart of the plant is roasted, before grinding and extracting its juices for distillation. Jose Cuervo uses a portion of the remaining agave fibres as compost for its farms, and local artisans make crafts and agave paper from the remnants. Under the terms of the new partnership, the fibre will be shipped to Ford’s research centre in Dearborn, Mich. to be converted into bioplastic.

Ford hopes to use to make bioplastics for car parts, replacing some of the glass fibres and talc currently used. PHOTO: Ford

Ford hopes to use to make bioplastics for car parts, replacing some of the glass fibres and talc currently used. PHOTO: Ford

The collaboration with Jose Cuervo is the latest example of Ford’s approach to product and environmental stewardship through the use of biomaterials. The automaker began researching the use of sustainable materials in its vehicles in 2000; today it uses eight sustainable-based materials in its vehicles including soy foam, castor oil, wheat straw, kenaf fibre, cellulose, wood, coconut fibre, and rice hulls.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme, 5 billion metric tons of agricultural biomass waste is produced annually. A byproduct of agriculture, the supply of materials is abundant and often underutilized. Yet the materials can be relatively low cost, and can help manufacturers to offset the use of glass fibres and talc for more sustainable, lightweight products.

“There are about 400 pounds of plastic on a typical car,” said Debbie Mielewski, senior technical leader of sustainability research at Ford. “Our job is to find the right place for a green composite like this to help our impact on the planet.”