Ford along with the Scotts Miracle-Gro Company is researching how coconut coir, or husks, might be used as a plastic reinforcement.

"This is a win-win situation. We're taking a material that is a waste stream from another industry and using it to increase the sustainability in our vehicles," said Ellen Lee, technical expert for plastics research at Ford. "We continue to search for innovative renewable technologies that can both reduce our dependence on petroleum as well as improve fuel economy."

Coconut coir is a natural fibre from the husk of a coconut. Scotts Miracle-Gro uses the material as a carrier for its soils and grass seed products which use the coir's natural fibres to hold 50% more water than basic potting soil and release it as plants need it - helping homeowners save water.

The automaker's researchers combine it with plastic to deliver additional reinforcement to the part while eliminating the need for some petroleum. Along with making use of a renewable resource, the new part would be lighter in weight. The natural long fibres also are visible in the plastic and offer a more natural look than typical materials.

In the interior, the material could be used in storage bins, door trim, seat trim or centre console substrates. It could also potentially be used on underbody and exterior trim.

Ford is currently testing the material's properties to ensure it passes all of the company's durability tests. Coconut coir is very difficult to burn and the automaker is researching whether it has natural flame-retardant properties.