Ford partners with Jose Cuervo to develop car parts from agave

Initial tests suggest agave remnant fiber is extremely durable and offers aesthetic qualities.

0 July 20, 2016

Agave is a plant used to make tequila. It takes seven years to grow to maturity, and once harvested, the heart of the plant is roasted and is ground to extract its juices for distillation. The remaining agave fibers have been used for a wide range of applications including for compost on farms, arts and crafts, and making paper.

Ford Agave Jose Cuervo PartnershipHowever, Ford Motor Company is looking to harness the power of this plant for use in car parts. The automaker is partnering with tequila maker, Jose Cuervo to explore how agave plant byproducts can be used to develop sustainable bioplastics used in vehicle interior and exterior components.

Initial tests suggest that this agave fiber is extremely durable and offers aesthetic qualities. The automaker hopes to use the remnant fibers to produce wiring harnesses, HVAC units and storage bins.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme, 5 billion metric tons of agricultural biomass waste is produced annually. These materials can be relatively low cost, and can help manufacturers to offset the use of glass fibers and talc for more sustainable, lightweight products.

“At Ford, we aim to reduce our impact on the environment,” said Debbie Mielewski, Ford senior technical leader, sustainability research department. “As a leader in the sustainability space, we are developing new technologies to efficiently employ discarded materials and fibers, while potentially reducing the use of petrochemicals and light-weighting our vehicles for desired fuel economy.”

Ford has a history of developing sustainable options for its vehicles. The automaker uses eight sustainable-based materials including soy foam, castor oil, wheat straw, kenaf fiber, cellulose, wood, coconut fiber and rice hulls.

“There are about 400 pounds of plastic on a typical car,” said Mielewski. “Our job is to find the right place for a green composite like this to help our impact on the planet. It is work that I’m really proud of, and it could have broad impact across numerous industries.”

As part of Jose Cuervo’s broader sustainability plan, the tequila maker is joining forces with the automaker to develop a new way to use its agave remnant fibers.

“Jose Cuervo is proud to be working with Ford to further develop our agave sustainability plan,” said Sonia Espinola, director of heritage for Cuervo Foundation and master tequilera. “As the world’s No. 1-selling tequila, we could never have imagined the hundreds of agave plants we were cultivating as a small family business would eventually multiply to millions. This collaboration brings two great companies together to develop innovative, earth-conscious materials.”

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