Ford has announced that it has teamed up with Weyerhaeuser to develop automotive applications for natural fiber materials. Ford is looking into the use of tree fibers called cellulose in some of the plastic composites used to produce its automobiles. Ford says that the use of cellulose in automotive applications has the potential to significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions and weight.
Another benefit of using the natural fibers is that Ford claims it could speed processing time by as much as 40%. Ford and its partner are working to develop a more sustainable plastic composite material for future vehicle components. This cellulose material isn't the first natural fiber the Ford has used in its vehicles. The automaker is already using a soybean-based cushion in its vehicles that saves about 5,000,000 pounds of petroleum annually.
The plastic composite Ford is developing using the cellulose fibers from trees would be used in place of fiberglass or mineral reinforcements. The fibers used in the new composite are taken from sustainably grown and harvested trees and related byproducts such as chips. Ford has already concluded during research that the cellulose-based plastic composite material meets requirements for stiffness, durability, and temperature resistance.
One of the significant upsides is that plastic components constructed using the cellulose-based plastic composite weigh 10% less and can be produced 20 to 40% faster with less energy than fiberglass-based materials. Less weight is important and is a major component automakers are dressing to meet future CAFE standards. The lighter a vehicle is, the less fuel it consumes to travel at the same speed over the same distance.