Ford has shown off a so-called “paint shop of the future,” which reduces volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emissions by 10% and CO2 by 20%.

Cost savings are estimated between $7 and $11 per vehicle and real-life installation will be piloted at the automaker’s Ohio assembly plant early next year.

Ford claims that industry-wide, 70 million pounds of paint fumes annually are collected and destroyed by expensive pollution abatement systems around the world before they are emitted into the air while 24 million pounds of paint overspray are captured in spray booths, treated and consolidated into non-hazardous sludge that eventually finds its way to landfills

But its new-technology shop offers three major advances: an advanced chemical paint formulation, an innovative three-wet application process and patented waste management technology that converts paint fumes into electricity and recycles paint sludge into car parts.

Ford suppliers have developed a patented high-solids, solvent-borne paint formulation that produces fewer VOC emissions than do current water-borne and solvent-borne paints. The new formulation contains more colour pigment and, therefore, requires less paint to cover a vehicle. Furthermore, it contains new polymers and other additives that prevent running and sagging.

According to internal quality data, solvent-borne paint provides better long-term resistance to chips and scratches than does water-borne paint.

A patented three-wet paint process allows one of the five steps in the paint shop to be removed, resulting in an estimated cost saving of $7 per vehicle. The smaller paint shop consumes less energy, resulting in fewer C02 emissions.

In the new paint shop, the prime-coat application and its related processes are eliminated. Three coats of wet paint are applied one after another without sags, runs and other defects – thanks to the new chemical formulation.

Fumes to Fuel, non-hazardous sludge recycling, and high-transfer efficiency are among the methods Ford is already using at its Michigan truck plant.

A new bell-shaped spray applicator minimises overspray so more paint adheres to the vehicle. Even with more efficient applicators, there is overspray – which is consolidated into nonhazardous sludge. Ford is installing a recycling system at the Michigan truck plant in Wayne that dries the sludge and recycles it into auto parts that help quiet the passenger compartments of cars and trucks. Instead of going to the landfill, the sludge is recycled into a liquid-applied, sound-deadening material, called LASD.

Fumes-to-Fuel technology turns paint fumes into electricity that is returned to the plant power grid. It’s enough electricity to light a typical suburban block of homes. The permanent installation follows a successful pilot of the technology at the Ford Rouge Center in 2004.

VOCs are pulled from the paint air emissions by carbon beads and the clean air is then released from the facility. The scrubbed VOCs are sent to a generator where they are transformed into electricity.