New bioplastic would reduce carmaker's environmental impact.

Ford has teamed with Jose Cuervo to use the best-selling tequila maker's waste agave fibers to produce bioplastic.

The bioplastic is being testing for use in interior and exterior components such as wiring harnesses, HVAC units and storage bins. Early assessments have been promising, the material proving to look good and be durable.

Implementing bioplastics would obviously reduce the need for petrochemical-based materials in the production of Ford's cars and, since it's lighter than conventional plastics, would reduce fuel consumption. As a result, Ford's overall environment impact would be significantly reduced.

The agave plant takes at least seven years to reach maturity. It's then harvested and the heart of the plant is roasted and ground to extract the juices that are then distilled to produce tequila. Joe Cuervo currently uses some of the waste fibre as compost on its farms, and artisans use them to produce crafts and paper. Now Ford has been added to that chain, as both companies seek to improve the sustainability of their business.

Ford already uses eight sustainable materials in its manufacturing processes, including soy foam, castor oil, and wheat straw.

Debbie Mielewski, Ford senior technical leader, sustainability research department said: “As a leader in the sustainability space, 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.”

According to the United National Environment Programme, 5 billion metric tons of agricultural biomass waste is produced around the every year, the vast majority of which is never reused.

"There are about 400 pounds of plastic on a typical car,” said Mielewski. “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.” 

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Jul 19, 2016 | DEARBORN, Mich.

Ford, Jose Cuervo Team Up to Make Car Parts from Agave

  • Ford Motor Company and Jose Cuervo® are exploring the use of agave plants to develop a sustainable bioplastic material to incorporate in vehicles, giving the agave fiber byproduct a second chance at usefulness
  • 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
  • Success in developing the sustainable composite could reduce the weight of car parts, helping to improve fuel economy; the new material could alleviate the use of petrochemicals, decreasing the overall impact of vehicles on the environment 
DEARBORN, Mich., July 19, 2016 – 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.

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. Success in developing a sustainable composite could reduce vehicle weight and lower energy consumption, while paring the use of petrochemicals and the impact of vehicle production on the environment.

“At Ford, we aim to reduce our impact on the environment,” said Debbie Mielewski, Ford senior technical leader, sustainability research department. “As a leader in the sustainability space, 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.”

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 fibers as compost for its farms, and local artisans make crafts and agave paper from the remnants. 

Now, as part of Jose Cuervo’s broader sustainability plan, the tequila maker is joining forces with the automaker to develop a new way to use its remnant fibers.  

“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. “As the world’s No. 1-selling tequila, we could never have imagined the hundreds of agave plants we were cultivating as a small family business would eventually multiply to millions. This collaboration brings two great companies together to develop innovative, earth-conscious materials.”

Like Ford Motor Company, Jose Cuervo is family-owned and operated. Founded in 1795, it has been making tequila for more than 220 years with the same experience, craftsmanship and recipes that have been handed down generation through generation.

The collaboration with Jose Cuervo is the latest example of Ford’s innovative approach to product and environmental stewardship through the use of biomaterials. Ford began researching the use of sustainable materials in its vehicles in 2000. Today, the automaker uses eight sustainable-based materials in its vehicles including soy foam, castor oil, wheat straw, kenaf fiber, cellulose, wood, coconut fiber 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 fibers and talc for more sustainable, lightweight products.  

“There are about 400 pounds of plastic on a typical car,” said Mielewski. “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.”