Ford has announced an unlikely partnership this week, teaming up with tequila giant Jose Cuervo to explore the use of used-up agave plants to develop a sustainable material for future vehicles.
Using a byproduct collected from the plant during the production process, Ford hopes to create a bioplastic for potential use in interior and exterior components for its vehicles - including wiring harnesses and storage bins.
The company believes developing sustainable composite material could help to reduce the weight of car parts - in turn improving fuel economy - while also negating the need for petrochemicals, decreasing the impact of vehicle production on the environment.
Growing the agave plant is a minimum seven-year process. After being harvested, the plant is roasted, ground, then its juices are extracted for distillation.
Jose Cuervo also uses a portion of the remaining fibres as compost for its farms, while locals in the vicinity of its La Rojeña distillery in Mexico make crafts and agave paper from the remaining fibres.
Debbie Mielewski, Ford’s senior technical leader, 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 Ford, the company already uses eight sustainable-based materials in its vehicles including soy foam, castor oil, wheat straw, kenaf fiber, cellulose wood, coconut fibre and rice hulls.
“There are about 400 pounds of plastic in a typical car,” Mielewski said. “Our job is to find the right place for a green composite like this to help our impact on the planet.”
“[And] it could have a broad impact across numerous industries,” she added.
No timeframe has been confirmed for the introduction of agave-based bioplastics, but, if successful, the material could be used for various components in the not-too-distant future.