Ford says it is testing bamboo – a strong natural material – for use in a composite material with applications in vehicle interiors.
The company says that ‘soon’ some surfaces inside vehicles could be made from a combination of bamboo and plastic to create ‘super hard material’.
“Bamboo is amazing,” said Janet Yin, a materials engineering supervisor at Ford’s Nanjing Research & Engineering Centre. “It’s strong, flexible, totally renewable, and plentiful in China and many other parts of Asia.”
Bamboo grows to full maturity in just two to five years – compared to up to decades for other trees – which means it also regenerates easily.
Over the past several years, Ford has worked with suppliers to evaluate the viability of using bamboo in vehicle interiors and to make extra strong parts by combining it with plastic. Ford says the team has found that bamboo performs comprehensively better than other tested synthetic and natural fibres in a range of materials tests, from tensile strength tests to impact strength tests.
It’s also been heated to more than 212 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure it can maintain its integrity.
While tests on bamboo continue, Ford says it is already making use of sustainable and recycled materials. The company recently announced it is working with Jose Cuervo to explore the use of the tequila producer’s agave plant by-product to develop more sustainable bioplastics to employ in Ford vehicles.
Ford uses several sustainable materials including:
- Kenaf, a tropical plant in the cotton family, is used in the door bolsters of Ford Escape
- REPREVE fabric, made from recycled plastic bottles, diverts more than 5 million plastic bottles from landfill annually. Ford most recently introduced REPREVE in F-150
- Post-consumer cotton from denim and T-shirts is used as interior padding and sound insulation in most Ford vehicles
- EcoLon post-consumer nylon carpeting is used as cylinder head covers in Ford Escape, Fusion, Mustang and F-150
- Recycled plastic bottles are becoming floor carpeting, wheel liners and shields in several vehicles including Ford Transit and C-MAX
- Recycled post-consumer tires are used in seals and gaskets
- Rice hulls are used to reinforce plastic in Ford F-150 electrical harness
- Soy-based foams are used as seat cushions, seatbacks and head restraints in Ford’s North American vehicle lineup
- Wheat straw is used in Ford Flex to reinforce storage bins