Odd building materials in vehicles may sound quirky and clever, but the process is nothing new, and is all about doing good for the environment. For example, did you know recycled blue jeans – the cotton, that is – are used in the 2012 Ford Focus as sound absorption to keep the interior quiet? Or that whenever possible, Ford has used soy foam for seat cushions, castor oil foam in instrument panels and even recycled carpet on cylinder head covers? Therefore, when we mention there might soon be coconut in your Ford, it shouldn’t seem all that nutty.
Ford and Scotts Miracle-Gro Company are working together to look into whether coconut fiber can be used to reinforce plastic parts in order to reduce the use of petroleum. It would also make the parts lighter and more natural-looking. You see, the coconut coir – the natural fiber from the husk – is waste from Scotts’ soil and grass seed products. With Scotts Miracle-Gro using more than 70 million pounds of coir each year in consumer products, the question became, What can be done with the leftover coir material?
Researchers at Ford will take the coconut coir and combine it with plastic to provide additional reinforcement to parts; the material could be used in door and seat trim, center console substrates and maybe even on underbody and exterior trim. Naturally (pun intended!), it will have to pass Ford durability testing. Coconut coir is very difficult to burn, so Ford is looking into its properties as a natural flame-retardant.