Ford uses wheat reinforced plastic
Ford Motor Company, working with researchers and suppliers,
is the first automaker to develop and use wheat straw-reinforced
plastic in a vehicle.
The first application of the natural fiber-based plastic
that contains 20 percent wheat straw bio-filler is on
the 2010 Ford Flex’s third-row interior storage bins.
This application alone reduces petroleum usage by some
20,000 pounds per year, reduces CO2 emissions by 30,000
pounds per year, and represents a smart use of wheat
straw, the waste byproduct of wheat.
Ford researchers were approached by the University of
Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. The University already had
been working with plastics supplier A. Schulman of Akron,
Ohio to perfect the lab formula for use in auto parts,
ensuring the material is not only odorless, but also
meets industry standards. Less than 18 months after the
initial presentation was made to Ford’s Biomaterials
Group, the wheat straw-reinforced plastic was refined
and approved for the Flex.
The wheat straw-reinforced resin demonstrates better
dimensional integrity than a non-reinforced plastic and
weighs up to 10 percent less than a plastic reinforced
with talc or glass.
Already under consideration by the Ford team: center
console bins and trays, interior air register and door
trim panel components, and armrest liners.
To date, Ford and its suppliers are working with four
southern Ontario farmers for the wheat straw needed to
mold the Flex’s two interior storage bins.