Tequila (or at least the agave it is made from) could be the future for many Ford vehicle parts. A new partnership between automotive manufacturer Ford Motor Company and an unlikely source, tequila maker Jose Cuervo, could lead to cars made with lightweight bioplastics products made from agave, according to a project announcement Tuesday. The effort could be a positive environmental development for both firms.
The two companies are testing developing bioplastics made from blue agave plant fibers discarded in the making of tequila. The hope is that the project recycles the agave plant waste into a tough, durable material that would be a sustainable, lighter option for car parts than conventional plastic. They are anticipating the effort could result in materials useful in vehicle components like wiring harnesses, air conditioning and heating units, storage bins, and such.
The initial assessments conducted led both companies to believe the agave-based material holds great promise because of the durability and its aesthetic qualities. Besides the benefits in reusing the discarded agave fibers from Jose Cuervo and lessening the use of plastic, they hope that composite will reduce the weight of the Ford vehicles in which it is used, which could lower their fuel consumption.
“At Ford, we aim to reduce our impact on the environment,” according to Debbie Mielewski, senior technical leader in the automaker’s sustainability research department. “As a leader in the sustainability space, we are developing new technologies to efficiently employ discarded materials and fibers, while potentially reducing the use of petrochemicals and light-weighting our vehicles for desired fuel economy.” She noted that there are approximately 400 pounds of plastic on a typical car and the company is trying to find more ways to replace them with green composites.
Tequila is made from the hearts of the blue agave plants, which take at least seven years to mature before harvesting. The hearts are ground and the juices extracted and then distilled into the liquor.
Jose Cuervo has already been repurposing a lot of the remaining agave parts. They use a portion of the remaining fibers as compost for its agave farms. Artisans in craft projects and agave paper, according to the companies’ press release, also use remnants. This effort with Ford, which is part of the firm’s sustainability plan, furthers their broader goal to find new uses for remnant fibers.
“Jose Cuervo is proud to be working with Ford to further develop our agave sustainability plan,” commented Sonia Espinola, heritage director for the Cuervo Foundation. She also noted that the collaboration between the two companies could result in the development of innovative, earth-conscious materials.
The collaboration with Jose Cuervo is Ford’s latest move into use of biomaterials. The auto company began researching sustainable materials that could be used in vehicles 16 years ago. As a result, newer Ford cars incorporate sustainable-based materials made from soy foam, castor oil, cellulose, coconut fiber, kenaf fiber, rice hulls, wheat straw, and wood.
While Ford and tequila maker Jose Cuervo announced they are partnering, they emphasize that their sustainable car product project is merely in the research stage, but shows promise. Before there is a timeline for bioplastic production, the companies need to make sure the composite made from the blue agave fibers is durable enough over time for use in vehicles.
Written and Edited by Dyanne Weiss
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Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company