The 2010 Ford Flex was the first of Ford's new cars to feature plastic components reinforced with wheat straw. This green technological advancement made its debut in the third-row storage bins of the 2010 Flex, and is expected to save 20,000 pounds of petroleum usage each year. Ford also estimates that a reduction of 30,000 pounds of CO2 emissions per year will be achieved thanks to the renewable technology.
Ford Flex Wheat Straw Plastics Explained
Wheat straw is the natural byproduct of wheat. Given that this renewable source of waste is readily available via the vast wheat fields in the Midwest, it seems like a natural focus for eco-friendly technologies.
The research that led up to commercial applications applied to the Ford Flex was conducted by the University of Waterloo and partly funded by the Canadian government's BioCar Initiative. Within 18 months of bringing the project to Ford, the team successfully created a process for reinforcing plastic with 20 percent wheat straw. Additionally, the new plastics were rigorously tested to ensure compliance with industry standards for rigidity, degradation, thermal expansion and other key factors.
Though third-row storage bins are a minor component within the Flex, Ford promises that the new technology will soon be incorporated into a number of other components across its vehicle line. For example, interior door trim panels and other plastic-molded components seem well suited for the new technology.
In making the decision of which Ford vehicle should first boast the new technology, the decision was largely geographical - the Ford Flex is manufactured in Ontario (right in the heart of Canada's wheat farms).
Other Emerging Green Technologies
Beyond the use of wheat straw, Ford also has several other green manufacturing processes in the works. For example, the 2011 Ford Explorer is poised to incorporate recycled steel from truck side stampings into the production of its fenders. Ford has also invested considerably in the production of soy-based rubber. This more environmentally friendly rubber is finding use in a variety of components.
While it is estimated that only ten percent of a vehicle's carbon footprint comes from the manufacturing process, these progressive processes serve to make incremental improvements in environmental preservation. In contrast, approximately 75 percent of a vehicle's carbon footprint stems from fuel consumption and five percent stems from distributing that fuel.
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