Ford has teamed with tequila producer Jose Cuervo to create car parts out of bioplastics made from the byproduct of tequila making. Researchers are testing the durability and heat resistance of the resulting plastics as a sustainable way to make car parts.
When agave plants are harvested and made into tequila, the fibers are left behind after the juices are extracted. These agave fibers can be made into many things, including fuels and plastics. The world's largest tequila maker, Jose Cuervo, has been working on these ideas for some time. So far fuels and even wood substitutes have been created using agave leftovers after the tequila making process. Cuervo currently harvests about 300 tons of agave per day, but the resulting fibers are only partially reused as compost, artisan materials, and experimental products, with the remainder being discarded or incinerated.
Ford efforts to find alternative, biologically-based options to replace petroleum products in vehicle manufacture stretch back to the use of wheat straw in the Ford Flex nearly a decade ago. The company has also experimented with production-ready materials from soybeans and other fibers.
With agave fibers, Ford hopes to reduce its use of petrochemicals, as well as reducing the weight of plastic parts used in automotive manufacture. Ford says that the average car currently contains about 400 pounds (181 kg) of plastic, and any weight reduction translate to fuel savings.
Ford engineers believe that they can create plastics from the agave fibers that would replace heating and air conditioning ductwork, storage bins and other interior plastics, and perhaps plastics for side mirror housings.
Neither Ford nor Jose Cuervo gave an expected timeline for the agave-based bioplastics to be seen in production. Take note, Ford – it seems only fitting that the first car to see these plastics be the Fiesta (badum cha!).