Text: Eric Tipan / Photos: Ford | posted July 20, 2016 10:26
Agave plant byproduct to be used in replacing plastic components
The plant that is used to make that Jose Cuervo tequila you love so much may soon find itself inside future vehicles as Ford Motor Company partners up with the tequila maker to explore ways to use the byproduct of the agave plant as bioplastic.
Already in the testing phase, Ford and Jose Cuervo are experimenting on bioplastics for vehicle interior and exterior components such as wiring harnesses, heating and climate control units, ventilation units and storage bins.
Initial findings indicate that the tested bioplastics are durable and possess great aesthetic qualities that live up to the Ford standard.
The incorporation of these sustainable bioplastics may reduce overall vehicle weight while lowering energy consumption during production.
“At Ford, we aim to reduce our impact on the environment. 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,” said Debbie Mielewski, Ford senior technical leader, sustainability research department.
The agave plant is grown for seven years before it is harvested, the heart roasted before grinding and extraction of the juices for distillation. It is the remaining agave fibers that will be used to make sustainable bioplastics.
“Jose Cuervo is proud to be working with Ford to further develop our agave sustainability plan. As the world’s No. 1-selling tequila, we could never have imagined the hundreds of agave plants we were cultivating as a small family business would eventually multiply to millions. This collaboration brings two great companies together to develop innovative, earth-conscious materials,” said Sonia Espinola, director of heritage for Cuervo Foundation and master tequilera.
A United Nations Environment Programme research reveals that 5 billion metric tons of agricultural biomass waste is produced annually. The challenge is to recycle this waste and utilize it to make cost-effective materials for auto production.
“There are about 400 pounds of plastic on a typical car. Our job is to find the right place for a green composite like this to help our impact on the planet. It is work that I’m really proud of, and it could have broad impact across numerous industries,” added Mielewski.