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Sustainable materials key to vehicle, tire industry growth

Finding new, sustainable materials for automobiles and auto parts is a crucial part of developing breakthrough solutions for future mobility, Group Michelin and Ford Motor Co. executives said at the recent Movin’On 2018 conference in Montreal.

With the increase in consumers numbering in the billions in the coming decade, there will also be a “tremendous increase in demand for raw materials in the automotive sector, but traditional materials such as natural rubber, steel and petroleum feedstocks for synthetic rubber are in finite supply,” said Francois Masson, leader of Michelin’s recycling program.

“The traditional production model is very linear,” he said. “You make products, you use them, and you dispose of them. We must reconsider that model.” “The goal is to discover how to increase the uptake of sustainable materials,” he said. “In the design of new mobility products, we need a more sustainable, circular economic model with shorter-loop recycling.”

According to Deborah Mielewski, senior technical leader, materials sustainability at Ford, Ford has always been in the vanguard of researching sustainable materials, beginning with Henry Ford himself.

“Henry Ford believed that agriculture and industry should work together in the development of plant-based materials,” she said. “Once a great idea, always a great idea.”

Historically, Ford has used soybeans in car parts and agricultural byproducts such as wheat straw for steering wheels. Soybeans and wheat straw are far from the only plant-based products Ford uses today, the Ford exec said. The auto maker uses coconut hulls for truck mats, cellulose from tree fiber, pulp from the lumber industry, flax fiber, and rice hulls for parts in the F-150 pickup, she said. “There’s a huge excess of tomato seeds and peels from the tomato processing industry,” she said. “We’re drying that material and using it as a reinforcing fiber in plastics.”

Ford is also collaborating with companies in other industries, such as Coca-Cola Co. and Nike Inc., and Tequila Cuervo La Rojeña, S.A. de C.V, Ms. Mielewski said.

Referenced article found here.

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