American legacy automaker Ford has found an innovative and sustainable approach to making automotive parts with olive trees.
Ford’s engineers, based in Cologne, Germany, initiated the research project to determine the potential of olive branches, twigs, and foliage for the production of automotive part prototypes.
The team sourced the waste materials for the trial from olive groves in Andalusia, Spain. For context, it is the world’s leading region when it comes to olive oil production.
The automotive part prototypes contained 40% olive tree fibers and 60% recycled polypropylene plastic. The team heated the substance and injected it into a mold to form the required shape. Interestingly, the testing revealed that the prototypes were lightweight, durable, and strong for such applications.
“In order to get the mix just right, we had to experiment with different ratios of waste material and polypropylene. It was hard work, but it ultimately enabled us to produce a material that shows no compromise in strength, durability, or flexibility.”
Thomas Baranowski, injection molding expert
News Week reported that the project has three primary objectives, which include the following:
- Innovate pruning management and the entire olive sector’s socio/economic aspects from an environmental perspective
- Create new fibers/biocomposites for various applications to cut fossil-based virgin plastic usage
- Aid EU’s strategy to establish a true circular economy
Ford emphasized its “long legacy of research and innovation in sustainable materials” with the recent efforts to integrate olive branches and twigs into car parts production. For instance, it introduced the “industry-first soybean based foam seats and headrests, post-consumer recycled materials – including yogurt cups – in the Ford Mustang Mach-E frunk insert and recycled ocean plastic in wiring harness clips in Ford Bronco Sport.”
Ford’s research project significantly aids in disposing of the 7 million tons of waste from pruning olive trees each year.
It can potentially pave the way for more lightweight parts and less plastic usage in car manufacturing.
In addition, it also lowers the production process’ carbon footprint, which aligns with Ford’s strategy to increase recycled and renewable content across its models.
You can watch the video about the project below: