US – In a collaboration with the Jose Cuervo Tequila brand, Ford is testing the durability and heat resistance of agave fibre by-product for use in vehicle interior and exterior components including wiring harnesses, storage bins and heating, ventilation and air conditioning units. According to the OEM, initial assessments suggest that the material shows “great promise”.
The growth cycle of the agave plant is a minimum of seven years and only its heart is used in the tequila distillation process, leaving the fibres for uses such as compost. Ford has already tested their application in vehicle interiors, after developing a prototype glove box with a specific type of agave called sisal, but this latest project goes a step further through sustainable sourcing of the material. Eventually, it is hoped that the use of agave fibres could help to reduce vehicle weight and lower energy consumption while minimising petrochemicals and impact on the environment.
“There are about 400 pounds of plastic on a typical car,” said Debbie Mielewksi, Ford’s senior technical leader at the sustainability research department. “Our job is to find the right place for a green composite like this to help our impact on the planet.”
Ford already features eight sustainable materials in its vehicles, including soy foam, castor oil, wheat straw, kenaf fibre, cellulose, wood, coconut fibre and rice hulls. The OEM believes that their use could offset that of glass fibres and talc in terms of cost, sustainability and lightweighting.