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Can new cars and alcohol ever go together?

By raccars Published

Mustang

When does alcohol and new cars not spell potential disaster? When Ford wants to make car parts!

You wouldn’t think that new cars and Tequila could ever have any sort of safe relationship but the Ford Company thinks differently. In fact, the car giant has plans to use waste products from Tequila maker Jose Cuervo to make parts for its new cars.

The waste material produced by Jose Cuervo will be used to create a new plastic which will, in turn, be used to make parts for new cars.

How will it work in new cars?

Tequila is created using the juice made from an agave plant’s heart. There are strong fibres left over from the juicing of this desert succulent, which are usually burned or thrown away.

Instead of disposing of them, Ford wants to use the fibres to make a bioplastic which could replace a number of synthetic materials, including fibreglass, which add strength to plastic components for new cars. They feature in items such as fuse boxes, air-conditioning ducts and storage bins.

Bioplastics are not a new idea; cellulose taken from plants was being used to create everything from viscose and rayon fabrics to photographic film by the end of the 19th century. It was discovered in 1838 by French chemist Anselme Paven.

In the 1940s, Henry Ford was behind the development of automotive parts made from a soybean-based plastic. In 2001, Ford also used a foam made from soybean crop waste for seat cushions in its Mustang coupe. This foam is currently used in all Ford vehicles made in North America. It is also used within the mattress industry.

Ford has even used plastics made from wheat straw as a reinforcing material to replace talc in automobile plastics. Talc has to be mined, whilst the wheat straw was formerly burned in Canada as a cold climate made it difficult to compost. It was first used in the Canadian-manufactured Flex SUV in 2010.

New cars and agave fibres

The agave fibres that could transform the creation of some car parts are already used extensively by indigenous residents of both Mexico and the US. For centuries they have been used for weaving, sewing and rope making.

Ford is one of many businesses around the world currently looking at the potential of agave fibres, which remain strong even after processing. In contrast, glass fibres are usually quite brittle and they are unable to absorb energy.

Ford wants to start using the agave bioplastic within the next couple of years in its Hermosillo factory in Mexico, home to the Lincoln MKZ and the Fusion.

Ford says that the plans are part of a ‘farm to car’ ethos, similar to the popular farm-to-table idea in food, in which local farms are considered in terms of the products they make and the way in which they could be incorporated in the creation of new car components.

Are bioplastics good for the planet?

This idea sounds very environmentally-friendly but there is some controversy over the way bioplastics break down and their potential for recycling or composting.

Most plastics are still disposed of in landfill and Ford’s agave material will not be a true bioplastic as the agave fibres will act only as a strengthening filler which must be mixed with a traditional petroleum-based plastic.

A petroleum-based form of bioplastic is already being used to create Coca-Cola bottles and it is expected that all of the company’s plastic bottles will include sugar cane-derived material by 2020.

Ford has previously collaborated with Coca-Cola in the use of this material in seat fabrics for new cars.

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