When we think about oil consumption and CO2 emissions in the auto industry, we’re usually thinking about the effects of driving gasoline and diesel vehicles. But what we ignore is the environmental impact of manufacturing the parts of those vehicles. In a typical car, there are over 200 kilograms of plastic. That plastic is made out of oil. So, even before you drive off the lot, your car has a deep set of carbon footprints (tire tracks). That’s where Ford’s farm to car initiative comes in.
Dr. Debbie Mielewski, Ford’s Senior Technical Leader of Materials Sustainability, has been working with her team to reinforce traditional plastics with environmentally friendly materials. In 2008, Ford introduced plastic manufactured with soybean foam instead of oil in their Mustangs. Since then, over 50 million vehicles with soy foam have taken the road. This process cut an astonishing 20 million pounds of CO2 per year.
Well, no. The point of farm to car is to improve sustainability of materials without sacrificing performance or comfort. When Ford reinforced their storage bins with wheat straw, they cut down on 2,500 gallons of crude oil per year. At the same time, the bins became stronger and more durable.
“I think it’s possible to make every single one of the plastic materials on the vehicle greener. It just takes effort and time,” says Mielewski. Her dedication is beginning to show. With bioplastics becoming a standard inclusion in Ford’s vehicle lineup, drivers can limit the amount of oil consumed before they put their hands on the wheel. In doing so, they’ll reap the rewards of better performance and durability.