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Ford may use old U.S. paper money to make auto parts

Photo courtesy of Bureau of Engraving and Printing/U.S. Department of the Treasury

Higher oil costs could speed up use of other new ‘green’ materials

DEARBORN, Mich. (April 19, 2012) – Rising oil prices have Ford upping the ante in its push to reduce petroleum dependence and use more sustainable materials – including retired U.S. paper currency – to make parts, according to a press release from the automaker.

A wide range of alternatives to products now made with petroleum are under review for potential application in Ford vehicles – from shredded retired currency to cellulose from trees, Indian grass, sugar cane, dandelions, corn and coconuts.

“Ford has a long history of developing green technologies because it’s the right thing to do from an environmental perspective,” said John Viera, Ford’s global director of sustainability and vehicle environmental matters. “Now, finding alternative sources for materials is becoming imperative as petroleum prices continue to rise and traditional, less sustainable materials become more expensive.”

The potential to reuse some of the country’s paper currency once it has been taken out of circulation is an example of the kind of research Ford is doing, Viera added.

In the early 2000s, when Ford started heavily researching sustainable materials, petroleum was readily available and relatively cheap; a barrel of oil was $16.65. Earlier this year, a barrel hit a high of $109.77.

Adding to the appeal of the new potential resources is that they are so plentiful. For example, 8,000 to 10,000 pounds of retired paper currency are shredded daily – more than 3.6 million pounds annually. The shredded money is either compressed into bricks and landfilled, or burned.

New sustainable materials that can meet Ford’s requirements and testing could join a growing list of alternatives to petroleum-based materials already in use.

Ford’s use of soybean-based cushions in all of its North American vehicles including the all-new Fusion, for example, saves approximately 5 million pounds of petroleum annually. The all-new Escape has door bolsters partially made of kenaf – a tropical plant in the cotton family – offsetting the use of 300,000 pounds of oil-based resin per year in North America.

Ford has concentrated on increasing the use of non-metal recycled and bio-based materials to reduce its dependence on petroleum products, according to the press release. Examples include:

• The new Fusion contains the equivalent of slightly more than two pairs of average-sized American blue jeans as sound-dampening material to help eliminate unwanted road, wind and powertrain noise.

• Kenaf is used in the door bolsters of Escape.

• Ten pounds of scrap cotton from blue jeans, T-shirts, sweaters and other items go in to the Escape’s dashboard

• The equivalent of 25 recycled 20-ounce plastic bottles helps make the Escape’s carpet.

• Focus Electric uses a wood-fiber-based material in its doors and recycled plastic bottles in its seat fabric.

• Flex has wheat straw in its plastic bins.

• Taurus SHO uses a micro denier suede made from 100 percent recycled yarns.