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Ford turns to tequila for car components

By Jez Spinks, 21 Jul 2016 Car News

Ford Focus RS with tequila

Ford is taking a shot at making car parts from the same plants used to make tequila.

The popular Mexican spirit is more renowned for causing hangovers, but Ford believes there is potential to create a bioplastic that helps reduce vehicle weight, while also being more environmentally friendly

The car maker will explore options after forming a sustainability alliance with the world’s biggest tequila producer, Jose Cuervo. It is looking at exterior and interior components including wiring harnesses, storage bins, and heating/ventilation/air-conditioning units. 

Ford would create its sustainable composites from leftover fibres from the tequila-making process, which involves roasting the heart of an agave plant before grinding and smashing it to extract its juices for distillation. Jose Cuervo says the agave remnants are already used by its local artisans in Mexico to make crafts and agave paper. 

Ford’s senior technical leader of its sustainability research department, Debbie Mielewski, says the company is continuously looking for new, byproduct solutions. 

“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. 

“There are about 400 pounds [180kg] 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.”  

The agave fibre would become the ninth sustainable-based material to be used in Ford vehicles. Since 2000 it has introduced materials derived from coconut fibre, rice hulls, kenaf fibre, cellulose, wood, castor oil, wheat straw and soy foam.