There are few things to dislike about fast cars and tequila when enjoyed separately. But outside of dumping a bottle of 100-proof firewater into the gas tank of your Mustang GT (don’t do this), we can’t think of anything the two do well together. Ford and Jose Cuervo aim to change that in the near future with a program that will use the remains of tequila-producing agave plants to make different parts in Blue Oval vehicles.
Agave takes seven years to grow and, at the end of the that time, producers like Jose Cuervo roast the plant before grinding it to extract the juices distilled to make tequila. The remaining fibers can be used as compost for farms or even to make paper. Because of its durability, Ford and Cuervo plan to use it as a substitute for plastics and other materials produced from petrochemicals in energy-intensive processes, the automaker said in a statement.
If found viable by Ford and regulators, the bioplastic made from agave plants could end up as wiring harnesses, coin dishes, HVAC units, and storage bins in any of the car maker’s future products. Agave fiber may be able to do the job of plastics and other high-impact materials while reducing vehicle weight and repurposing material that could end up as garbage — both big helps in the sustainability department.
Debbie Mielewski, Ford senior technical leader in sustainability research, said plastic makes up about 400 pounds of the average vehicle, so there is plenty of room for improvement. “Our job is to find the right place for a green composite like this to help our impact on the planet,” Mielewski said. “It is work that I’m really proud of, and it could have broad impact across numerous industries.”
It won’t be the first time Ford put organic waste to work in its vehicles in place of plastic. Kenaf, a tropical plant similar to cotton, is found in the doors of Escape. Likewise, rice hulls are used to help out plastic electrical harnesses in F-150 and soy foam can be found in Mustang seat cushions. Rather than head to landfills, this durable waste can have a long second act in cars and trucks.
Ford Futurist Sheryl Connelly has detailed the automaker’s ongoing commitment to sustainability in her annual trends reports. It’s clear Ford intends to balance the demands of its massive F-150 consumer base with those of a growing demographic that may be better suited for car-sharing and could potentially never own a vehicle. We’ll have a better idea of what that vision looks like when FordPass becomes a more fleshed-out concept.
In the meantime, any effort by automakers to reduce the industry’s overwhelming footprint is welcome news in these parts. The 5 billion tons of agricultural waste produced annually (per the U.N.), most of which is not reused, would seem like a good place to start. Should Ford and Cuervo’s collaboration succeed, consumers could see the agave-based materials in Blue Oval cars by 2019.
Maybe it will make its debut in that long-range Ford EV for the masses? We’d drink to that.
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