By Doris de Guzman on September 29, 2009 11:38 AM
Ford researchers are hoping to develop 100% petroleum-free automotive plastics to make it to make cars totally compostable - as long as they don't compost while being driven of course. In fact, decomposition is one of the 3 main challenges that Ford is trying to overcome since bioplastic (e.g. polylactic acid) is designed to decompose quickly.
Maybe bioplastic developers can design a time-activated material where vehicles have expiration date and that's when decomposition process starts??
Other challenges that Ford researchers are looking for solutions include less moisture absorption (since natural fiber-reinforced plastics are more likely to absorb moisture causing durability concerns), and odor problems.
Despite those challenges, biobased/recycled materials are already being used in several Ford vehicles:
Soy-based polyurethane foams on the seat cushions and seatbacks on the Ford Mustang, Expedition, F-150, Focus, Escape, Escape Hybrid, Mercury Mariner and Lincoln Navigator and Lincoln MKS.
Soy-foam headliner on the 2010 Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner.
Underbody systems, such as aerodynamic shields, splash shields and radiator air deflector shields, made from post-consumer recycled resins such as detergent bottles, tires and battery casings.
100% postindustrial recycled yarns in seat fabrics on vehicles such as the Ford Escape. The 2010 Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan Hybrids feature 85% postindustrial yarns and 15% solution-dyed yarns.
Ford researchers said they are looking more at plastics, rubber, foam, film and fabric to develop alternative bio-based materials that are functional, durable, cost-effective, and decreases use of petroleum oil.
Possibilities include replacing glass fibers with natural fiber reinforcements made from cellulose, soy protein, hemp fiber, flax fiber and other bio-based materials; and PLA bioplastics for vehicle carpeting, floor mats, upholstery, and nondurable auto applications such as protective wrappings used during vehicle manufacturing and transit.