Other developments Ford has announced are quite curious. The Lincoln MKR concept features extensive use of wood, which is "reengineered oak", which comes from recycled sources reassembled grain by grain. The concept also includes chromium-free leather. The 2009 Lincoln MKS (pictured) will "introduce soft leather perfected with vegetable dyes and a chromium-free tanning process" as well as "reclaimed wood and an Olive Ash wood trim".
But there's more, Ford is studying how to replace fiberglass "now used between the headliner of a vehicle and the roof sheet metal" with a bio-sourced material that could improve insulation and reduce weight. And finally, Ford is also confirming work on ways to introduce hemp, corn (as a kind of plastic-like), switch grass, flax and other natural fibers into the vehicles.
Press releases after the jump.
GREEN INSIDE: FORD COOKS UP 'EDIBLE' INTERIORS
From hemp clothing and bamboo floors to chemical-free makeup, today's Earth-friendly choices are de rigueur for millions of consumers worldwide. A growing social consciousness has elevated sustainability from trend to lifestyle in less than a decade, driven by waning natural resources and global security concerns.
While this cultural shift may be relatively recent, Ford's history of pioneering renewable solutions dates back to the Model T. Here are just a few green technologies you may not know about – found inside Ford vehicles on the road today – and potential sustainable solutions for the future:
* What Lies Beneath – The 2008 Ford Mustang, F-150, Expedition and Lincoln Navigator are giving customers a greener ride, thanks to Ford's industry-first soy-based seat foam. Based on the Mustang application alone, Ford's soy-foam is on track to deliver a carbon dioxide reduction of 605,000 pounds annually. The technology now is being expanded to additional vehicles lines and further developed for use in John Deere tractors, riding mowers and other equipment. (See soy release -below- for more details)
In addition to recycled wood, the Lincoln MKR concept includes chromium-free leather, renewable soy foam seat bases and mohair carpet. This unique combination of materials gives the concept a rich-looking interior while demonstrating the more environmentally friendly amenities luxury buyers are expecting in premium goods, including vehicles.
* Coming Soon – The 2009 Lincoln MKS flagship will introduce soft leather perfected with vegetable dyes and a chromium-free tanning process. Reclaimed wood and an Olive Ash wood trim, made when roots of two trees grow together, offer green luxury as well.
* Green In Between – Not all green solutions are visible to customers. Ford is developing a sustainable replacement for the fiberglass now used between the headliner of a vehicle and the roof sheet metal. The replacement material is bio-based, improves acoustics in the vehicles and neutralizes odors. It's also lighter than fiberglass, which will help enhance fuel economy.
* Pure Fabrication – Ford is studying ways to introduce hemp, corn, switch grass, flax and other natural fibers into the vehicles of tomorrow. Natural fibers are biodegradable, require comparatively less energy to produce and offer weight savings versus petroleum-based products. Ford's Plastics Research team is looking to natural fiber composites as a potential substitute to the glass fibers traditionally used in plastic automotive components to make them stronger. Among the possibilities under study are fender reinforcements, a tow impact shield and an engine valve cover.
Ford researchers have made considerable inroads with polylactic acid (PLA) – a biodegradable plastic derived completely from corn – to make plastic polymers similar to those made from petroleum-based resources.
"If a plastic is made from corn, it's compostable," said Debbie Mielewski, technical leader, Ford Plastics Research. "When you throw a PLA component away, it will disappear within 90 to 120 days given the right humidity, temperature and microbes, as opposed to ending up in a landfill for 1,000 years."
As they research ways to strike the right balance between durability and recyclability, the Plastics Research Team also is exploring shorter-term PLA applications, like using the material for labels on the vehicle fuel door
SOWING SUSTAINABILITY: FORD PIONEERS GREEN SEATING ALTERNATIVE, LICENSES SOY SEATING TO JOHN DEERE
* Ford has licensed Deere & Company and Sears Manufacturing Company to further develop Ford's soy-based flexible seat foam for John Deere farming equipment and other applications.
* The 2008 Ford Mustang debuted the auto industry's first soy-based seat foam, replacing petroleum-based foam. The eco-friendly technology is now featured in the 2008 Ford F-150, Expedition and Lincoln Navigator and will be in the 2009 Ford Escape.
* Ford has a rich history in incorporating soy-based materials into its products that dates back to the Model T.
* Environmental advantages of soy foam include: reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, lower energy to produce, up to 24 percent renewable content and less dependency on volatile energy markets.
DEARBORN, Dec. 11, 2007 – Farmers could soon bring in the harvest using equipment made with their own crops, thanks to collaboration between Ford and John Deere, the world's leading manufacturer of agricultural equipment. The two companies have agreed that Deere will further develop and manufacture Ford's soy-based flexible foam for seating materials in tractors, riding mowers and other equipment.
Ford first introduced soy-based polyol to the auto industry in the seat backs and seat cushions of the 2008 Ford Mustang. The 2008 Ford F-150, Expedition and Lincoln Navigator now also feature this eco-friendly technology, with the next application coming on the 2009 Ford Escape. Meanwhile, Deere has used soy-based products for body panels on some farm equipment.
Ford will work with John Deere and its seat supplier, Sears Manufacturing Company, to bring this greener alternative to traditional seat foam to fields and even backyards nationwide.
"As all of industry faces daunting sustainability challenges, Ford is pioneering renewable solutions and forging strategic partnerships to extend our capabilities and our ability to innovate," said Gerhardt Schmidt, vice president, Ford Research and Advanced Engineering. "We are pleased to collaborate with John Deere to continue the development of soy-based foam and research other technologies to benefit both our industries."
Ford's soy-based foam will be developed for use in the seat backs, seat cushions, arm rests and head rests of John Deere equipment, which is used in agriculture, forestry, construction, and lawn and turf care. Sears Manufacturing also will work to incorporate the technology into Class V-VII medium and heavy trucks.
"John Deere's agreement with Ford builds on our shared core values of quality and innovation and our commitment to deliver outstanding products for our customers," said Klaus Hoehn, vice president, Advanced Technology and Engineering at John Deere. "Working together will advance our ability to develop far-reaching solutions for a more sustainable future."
Soy-based foam is just one of the technologies Ford Global Technologies, LLC is making available through licensing to companies such as John Deere for applications outside Ford.
Soy: A Sustainable Alternative Grows from 100-Year-Old Roots
Ford has a rich history in incorporating soy-based materials into its products. The Model T, for example, once contained 60 pounds of soybeans in its paint and molded plastic parts.
Ford again showcased its industry-leading work with soy foams in 2003 on the Model U concept, which featured soy-based seat cushions as well as a soy-based resin composite tailgate.
Now, Ford's Plastics Research team has formulated the chemistry to replace a staggering 40 percent of the standard petroleum-based polyol used in seating materials with a soy-derived material. This breakthrough will make a significant impact on the environment while reducing dependency on imported petroleum.
According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, soy-based products have only one-quarter of the level of total environmental impact of petroleum-based products. Most automakers today use 100 percent petroleum-based polyol foam. Each vehicle contains an average of 30 pounds of petroleum-based foam in its seat backs, seat cushions, armrests, instrument panels and headliners.
"As we continue to migrate this green technology across many vehicle platforms, we're improving our environmental footprint by conserving limited resources and reducing carbon dioxide emissions," said Debbie Mielewski, technical leader, Ford Plastics Research.
Ford is working closely with the United Soybean Board to bring soy foam to the automotive market. The company is using 2.2 million pounds of soy foam in the 2008 Mustang alone. Just based on that application, this green alternative is on track to deliver a carbon dioxide reduction of 605,000 pounds annually.
With more than 3 billion bushels of soy harvested in the U.S. each year, Ford could potentially use up to 844 million bushels of soy throughout its product lineup annually.