At a recent event hosted by EcoStiletto Ford Motor designer Susan Swek presented the company's latest nature-inspired colors, including Frosted Glass. The icy shade of light green is the signature color of the 2012 Focus Electric -- boasting a "100 percent sustainable interior."
Anthony Prozzi, formerly from the fashion world, spoke of the automaker’s use of sustainable materials in its interiors, from upholstery to carpets.
I walked past a table laid out with corn, hay and plastic pipes made from made with soy flour and reinforced with wheat straw. Besides car parts, Ford has been integrating up to 35% of recycled content in its car interiors, from denim insulation to post-industrial fabrics, keeping two pair of jeans and 20 plastic water bottles out of landfill per vehicle. It uses caster oil and soy foam for the instrument panel, “bio-chair” and head restraints, and upcycles the nylon carpet in cylinder head covers.
The new Focus Electric is only the first of the 100% sustainable, post-industrial interiors for Ford's growing line of green vehicles -- the Fusion Hybrid, Connect van, etc.
Sustainable materials designer Carol Kordich is most excited about the effort to get suppliers, like Repreve, manufactured by Unifi, to “close the loop” by recycling its textile waste back into yarn fabrication.
Despite Ford’s environmental mandate to incorporate recycled and renewable materials in the design, she wondered about bringing suppliers on board. His advice motivated her, “One person can make a difference and change things.”
Ford is researching the use of various plant-based products -- such as coconut fiber from the waste-stream of Miracle-Gro products -- in its ongoing effort to decrease the use of petroleum-based plastics and make lighter-weight vehicles for better fuel efficiency. But since some of these plastics aren’t shiny enough for the public’s taste, many materials are used in the underbody.
At a conference at Ford's last summer, I visited a lab to discover a downside to recycling plastics -- smell. A team of olfactory specialists detect and eliminate foul orders from vehicles. This isn’t about manufacturing a “new car scent.” Odors from bottled products, like soured milk and soapy residue, leach into plastic and worsen in certain temperatures.
Among the upsides of recycling post-consumer waste, Ford estimates that one vehicle's annual energy conservation equals 600,000 gallons of water, 1.8 million pounds of carbon dioxide equivalents, and 7 million kilowatt hours of electricity. It also implements a program to recycle 95 percent of materials from retired Ford cars.