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Future Ford F150 Could Be Made from Ketchup Byproducts

The 2015 Ford F150 is unique from the competition in the heavy use of aluminum body panels and in an effort to come up with materials that are more sustainable and lighter weight, Ford might use the waste from a ketchup manufacturing plant to use in place of petroleum based plastics.

One of the key goals for Ford in designing the new F150 pickup was to come up with materials that are lighter, less harmful to the environment and more sustainable than traditional petroleum based plastics. The Motor Company is on the cutting edge of this movement, already employing natural fibers in electric cowl brackets constructed from rice hulls, seat cushions made from soy and console components made from cellulose fibers. One of their current efforts could result in portions of the future F150 pickup made from the leftover scraps from a ketchup factory.

“We are exploring whether this food processing byproduct makes sense for an automotive application,” said Ellen Lee, plastics research technical specialist for Ford. “Our goal is to develop a strong, lightweight material that meets our vehicle requirements, while at the same time reducing our overall environmental impact.”

Tomato Plastic – Red is the New Green
Ford has been working with the H.J. Heinz Co of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania to see if the skin, seeds and stems of a tomato could be used to make a new type of plastic. Fortunately, as one of the world’s leading manufacturers of tomato ketchup, Heinz has an overabundance of those three things since it the skin, seeds and stems are all of the byproducts of making Heinz Ketchup.

This tomato based plastic could be used to make things like wiring brackets or the inner console components of the F150 and Fusion (among other vehicles). Since they would be made of tomato waste, there would be less call for use of petroleum while also cutting down on the amount of waste in the ketchup making process. Also, this ketchup based plastic would likely have less harmful impact on the atmosphere during production compared to a traditional plastic.

We are delighted that the technology has been validated,” said Vidhu Nagpal, associate director, packaging R&D for Heinz. “Although we are in the very early stages of research, and many questions remain, we are excited about the possibilities this could produce for both Heinz and Ford, and the advancement of sustainable 100% plant-based plastics.”

These Parts Won’t Make the F150 Smell Like Pizza
While the early stages of this collaboration between Ford Motor Company and Heinz likely had more than a few test labs smelling like tomatoes, the components that go into the future Ford F150 won’t leave your interior smelling like a baking pizza on hot days. The many steps required to turn leftover skins, stems and seeds from a ketchup factory will involve enough processes to render the tomato parts unrecognizable and without anything more than a chemical smell like any other new plastic.

To make sure of this, Ford Motor Company has a group of engineers whose job is to analyze the odor emitted by any new materials that could be used on a future vehicle. From moisture to extreme temperatures to long periods of direct sunlight, this team works to make sure that new materials – like plastic made from ketchup remnants – won’t give the car an unpleasant smell in any condition that the vehicle may experience.

In the long run, there will be no real impact on the people who buy a future Ford F150 pickup that has a console tray made from tomato fiber plastic, but producing that console tray will have far less of an impact on the environment with less greenhouse gases produced. It may also cost less since the automaker would essentially be using Heinz’s trash and lower costs for the automaker lead to lower prices for the consumer.


kelly (not verified)    June 12, 2014 - 5:32PM