Ford Partners With Heinz to Use Tomato Fibers in Autos

Posted by at 6:49 am on June 13, 2014

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The cost fossil fuels are on the rise,plus being green helps you del your product these days. So it’s become increasingly common to see plant-based or recycled materials used in the automotive industry. Back in 2008 at the North American International Auto Show, Honda Motor was showing off seat cushion foams it had made from corn byproducts. General Motors Comp.’s (GM) fleet today uses between 5 and 10 percent recycled plastics. In 2013 Ford worked with Coca-Cola’s to use PlantBottle technology in th Ford Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid

Now Ford Motor is expanding on its green effort it hopes will set it apart from its rivals’ efforts. Ford has announced a partnership with the Pittsburgh, Penn.-based H. J. Heinz Company to make use of dried tomato fibers in its upcoming vehicles. Specifically, dried tomato skins could become the wiring brackets in a Ford vehicle or the storage bin a Ford customer uses to hold coins and other small objects.

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Heinz is estimated to be America’s #1 ketchup maker, with more than 50 percent market share. Annually the company boasts:

  • 2 million tons of tomatoes used annually to make ketchup
  • 250 million pounds of ketchup shipped annually to the U.S. (2006)
  • ~570 million pounds of ketchup shipped annually worldwide
  • 650 million bottles of ketchup sold annually
  • 11 billion single-serve packets of ketchup shipped annually

While those tomatoes makes a whole lot of ketchup, they also adds up to a lot of waste byproduct. Heinz typically discards the stems, seeds, and peels during the ketchup-making process.

“We’re trying to make use of a by-product … and get some renewable and recycled content into our vehicles, while at the same time reducing the weight,” Ellen Lee, a research specialist at Ford Plastics.

Lee said the less-than-attractive appearance of the material meant it could so far potentially only be used for hidden parts, such as under-hood plastics and shields in the underbody, but the aim was to make it more pleasing to the eye in future.

Ford currently offers eight “bio-based” materials in its production vehicles.  These include:

  • rice hulls as a filler for electrical cowl brackets
  • cellulose from timber industry for console plastic reinforcement
  • recycled cotton for seat and floor fabrics
  • soy foams for seats and head restraints
  • coconut-based composite materials

Ford is also eyeing using dandelions to produce some of the rubber in its vehicles.

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