Hey, there’s straw in the new 2010 Ford Flex. Anyone who has ridden on a hay rack will find irony in the fact that cushy new vehicles are now being constructed from wheat straw plastic.
Ford worked with the Ontario BioCar Initiative and a multi-university effort between Waterloo, the University of Guelph, University of Toronto and University of Windsor to use wheat straw reinforced plastic in an automobile for the first time. The wheat straw-reinforced resin is the BioCar Initiative's first production-ready application.
The Flex is built in Ontario, where more than 28,000 farmers grow wheat. Typically the wheat straw is discarded and Ontario has some 30 million metric tons of available wheat straw waste at any given time.
The use of wheat by-products in Ford automobiles can be traced back to founder Henry Ford. He developed a product called Fordite in the 1920s, which was a mixture of wheat straw, rubber, sulphur, silica and other ingredients. Fordite was used to make steering wheels for Ford cars and trucks. Much of the straw used to produce Fordite came from Henry Ford's Dearborn-area farm.
In the new Flex, the third seat storage bins will be made from wheat straw. The company says that usage alone will reduce petroleum by an estimated 20,000 lb. per year. The material has better dimensional integrity than a non-reinforced plastic and weighs up to 10% less than a plastic reinforced with talc or glass.
The University of Waterloo already had been working with plastics supplier A. Schulman of Akron, Ohio, to make the lab formula ready for production of auto parts. Any material would have to meet industry
standards for thermal expansion and degradation, rigidity, moisture absorption and fogging.
Ford also uses soy-based polyurethane seat cushions, seatbacks and headliners; post-industrial recycled yarns for seat fabrics; and post-consumer recycled resins for underbody systems, such as the new engine cam cover on the 2010 Ford Escape's 3.0-liter V-6 engine.
The manufacturer is looking for more components to source with this type of material including center console bins and trays, interior air register and door trim panel components, and armrest liners.
For more information go to www.ford.com