Ford Motor Company is using plastic reinforced with rice hulls – a byproduct of rice grain – in an electrical harness in the 2014 F-150. The company will need at least 45,000 pounds of hulls in the first year. The rice hulls are sourced from farms in Arkansas and will replace a talc-based reinforcement in a polypropylene composite made by RheTech, a Whitmore Lake, Mich.-based automotive supplier.
"The 2014 F-Series exemplifies our continued efforts to use recycled content in our vehicles," said John Viera, Ford global director of sustainability and vehicle environmental matters. "We can have greater impact in this case because of the size and sales volume of this product."
According to Ford, the F-Series trucks already feature:
- Recycled cotton: Used as carpet insulation and a sound absorber, every 2014 F-150 contains enough recycled cotton to make the equivalent of 10 pairs of jeans.
- Soybeans: used to make seat cushions, seat backs and head restraints.
- Recycled carpet: Some F-150 trucks have cylinder head covers made with EcoLon, a nylon resin produced from 100 percent post-consumer recycled carpet.
- Recycled tires: A thermoplastic material made from recycled tires and post-consumer recycled polypropylene is used to make shields and some underbody covers on F-150.
- Recycled plastic soda pop and water bottles: A lightweight fiber derived from recycled plastic soda pop and water bottles is used to construct F-150 wheel liners and shields. The parts are significantly lighter than traditional injection molded parts and lead to a quieter ride. Select F-Series trucks feature fabric made from recycled fiber.
- Recycled post-industrial plastics: Used in interior finish panels, including around radio and climate controls, researchers in Dearborn, Mich. are constantly searching for the next sustainable material that can feasibly be used in Ford vehicles. Finding a source of material is only the beginning of the process, however, because before making it to production, components made from recycled content must perform as well or better than comparable virgin-grade material.
Materials development engineers at Ford Materials Engineering, Testing, and Standards in Dearborn, Mich., in conjunction with RheTech, conducted testing of the rice hull material for more than a year, examining everything from smell and appearance to functionality and flammability. The rice hull-based material successfully passed all tests, according to Ford.
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