Behind the Scenes at Ford's Eco Labs

The amazing eco-friendly things taking place that you may not know about

Behind the Scenes at Ford's Eco Labs

A Peek Behind the Scenes at Ford's Eco Labs

In the past few years, car manufacturers have really been stepping up their game when it comes to making their vehicles more eco-friendly. From cars that are more fuel efficient to the materials being used to build components all the way to the rising popularity of electronic vehicles, it's getting easier for consumers to buy a more eco-conscious car. Ford is one of those manufacturers 100% committed to helping us do so.

I was given the opportunity to spend some time with Ford this past Earth Day for the #FordEcoTour. A small group of us were given a peek behind the scenes to see what they have been working on at some of the sites in their home base town, Dearborn, Michigan.

Take a look at a few of the things they have been doing to make their vehicles more earth-friendly:

In addition to the interesting facts above, here is more of what I saw and learned during the tour:

Vehicle Interior Fabric Materials

All materials that go into the interior of a Ford vehicle is carefully vetted for its eco-friendliness, durability, and other factors. Ford has a dedicated group of designers in charge of ensuring sustainable material-based fabrics are used in all of their vehicles.

A few achievements Ford has been able to celebrate when it comes to interior fabrics:

  • The 2008 Ford Escape was the first vehicle to use recycled material fabric throughout the interior.
  • Since the 2009 model year, any new seat fabric used in Ford vehicles must contain at least 25 per cent recycled content
  • The  2013 Ford Fusion/Mondeo is the first global program from any automaker to use recycled content on a worldwide basis
  • Focus Electric was the first Ford to make use of the REPREVE brand yarn in its seat fabric – the fiber is made from recycled plastic water bottles and post-industrial waste. Ford is the only automaker to use REPREVE. Use of REPREVE in Ford's F-150 trucks started in 2015.
  • Now that Ford is using REPREVE, the program has the potential to recycle enough plastic bottles and post-industrial waste to make almost 1.5 million yards of fabric
  • By substituting standard materials with this recycled material, Ford will divert more than five million plastic bottles from landfills in 2015 alone.

Just because Ford has made huge advancements in the fabrics they use, does not mean they are stopping there...

North America's Largest Living Green Roof

Sitting on top of Ford's Rouge Factory (a natural historic landmark and where the popular F-150 trucks are put together), you will find a 10.4 acre vegetative roof (the living garden pictured in the main image at the top of this post). Installed in 2004, its purpose is to sustain an ecosystem (it's home to several insect, bird, and plant species'), to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and to reduce the plant's energy use. It is also part of an innovative storm water management system that reduces runoff and costs two-thirds less than using a conventional water treatment process. This type of roof will last twice as long as a traditional roof. It was quite a sight to see knowing all that it is accomplishing.

Here are some other things the living roof is doing to make the Rouge Factory eco-friendly:

  • The green roof absorbs sunlight which prevents leaks and cracks.
  • It lowers the temperature in the plant by up to 10 degrees in the summer.
  • It reduces heating and cooling costs in the plant by 5%.
  • It can absorb up to 4 million litres of rain water.

Ford's Engine Downsizing Program - EcoBoost

In 2009, Ford introduced its first EcoBoost engine (the Ford Expedition was the first vehicle to have this type of engine). The goal behind EcoBoost engine program is to make smaller, turbo-charged engines that do not sacrifice on performance, produce less emissions, and deliver better fuel economy. Last year, 2.5 million EcoBoost engines were produced and in March 2015, the 5 millionth EcoBoost engine was rolled off the assembly line.

Bio Materials Lab

This part of the Eco Tour was my favourite. We were shown how everyday items (things you would never imagine to be part of a car!) are being used to produce car components. Currently, Ford is using the following:

  • Soybeans - Ford uses soybean-based foam in seat cushions, backs and head restraints. Using soybeans saves about 5 million pounds of petroleum annually.
  • Denim - Recycled denim is being used as a sound deadener.
  • Kenaf - A tropical plant in the cotton family used in the door bolsters of the Ford Escape.
  • Plastic bottles - The equivalent of about 22 clear, plastic 20-ounce bottles are in the seat fabric of the Focus Electric.
  • Recycled tires - Most Ford vehicles use recycled tire gaskets under the hood.

And Ford is currently working on seeing if the following materials could work for potential future use:

  • Shredded money - Retired U.S. paper currency could possibly be used to manufacture plastic parts like trays and bins.
  • Dandelions - Part of the Russian dandelion is being studied as a possible alternative to synthetic rubber.
  • Coconuts - A fibre by-product of coconuts called coir is being studied as a potential reinforcement for molded plastics.
  • Corn and sugar cane - A biodegradable plastic called polylactic acid is derived from sugars in corn, sugar beet and cane and could possibly be used in Ford vehicles.
  • Tomato peels, stems, and seeds - Ford recently teamed up with Heinz (yes, the company that makes Heinz ketchup!) to see how they can use their discarded tomato fibers to develop sustainable, composite materials for uses in vehicle manufacturing. Specifically, dried tomato skins could become the wiring brackets in a Ford vehicle or the storage bin a Ford customer uses to hold coins and other small objects.

What does Ford do with vehicles you no longer want?

Ford has two green programs designed to help deal with cars no longer needed or cannot be used any longer.

1. The Ford Recycle Your Ride Program

Ford is working with the Automotive Recyclers of Canada (ARC) to properly recycle end-of-life vehicles through the Recycle Your Ride Program. Over the past six years, Ford and the ARC have helped more than 69,500 people recycle their rides and dispose of the hazardous materials found in all vehicles such as mercury, lead, refrigerants, antifreeze, oils, and gasoline.

Ford Canada and ARC are currently working together to recycle 2008 model year or older vehicles for up to $2,500 toward the purchase or lease of a new Ford vehicle. The program will run at Canadian Ford dealerships during May and June 2015, so if you are thinking of buying a new car in the next little while, this is a great program to take advantage of.

2. Vehicle Dismantling and recycling

About 85 percent of the materials used in Ford vehicles are recyclable. Ford takes full advantage of this by dismantling and recycling vehicle components. Once all of the salvageable materials are removed from a vehicle at the end of its useful life, the remaining structure is flattened and pulverized into small pieces. Industrial-strength magnets are used to separate the metals and the recovered ferrous metals are recycled to produce new steel. Following the removal of all recyclable materials, the remaining plastics, rubber, foam, fabric and glass, are properly disposed of in landfills.


Going in, I already knew that Ford was a company making huge efforts in the green area, but what I didn't know was how much they were doing. The things I saw in the short time I was in Dearborn was incredible. What they are doing behind the scenes to ensure their vehicles are as green as possible is innovative, smart, and for lack of a better word, cool! After I walked away from the tour, I have no doubt about the difference Ford is currently making - and will be making in the years to come - in the world of green vehicles.

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