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Green Fleet Briefing: Ford’s Coconut Cars, Escape Hybrid Dropped, Volkswagen Wind

Ford and the Scotts Miracle-Gro Company are researching the use of coconut fiber reinforcement for molded plastic vehicle parts such as storage bins, door and seat trim, or center console substrates. They say this will reduce the use of petroleum and make the parts lighter. The long fibers are also visible in the plastic and offer a “natural” look, the companies say.

The coconut husks are a waste stream from Scotts’ soil and grass seed products.

Just last week, Ford and BASF said they have developed a plant-sourced, castor oil-based foam product for the 2012 Ford Focus instrument panel, which the companies say will save more than 5,000 barrels of oil for every 300,000 models produced in North America.

Over the past few years Ford has introduced a number of unusual materials into its vehicles, including carpet, blue jeans and soy (for gaskets and seals, and for seat cushions).

In other Ford news, the automaker is dropping the Escape hybrid, the best-selling hybrid SUV, in favor of two EcoBoost engine options, Reuters reports. Ford says that one of these, the 1.6 liter EcoBoost, will offer better fuel economy than the hybrid model.

Nissan has delivered three Leaf electric cars to the Mexico City government. The vehicles are the first of 100 to be delivered as part of a pilot program called Taxis Cero Emisiones (Zero Emissions Taxis).

Nissan estimates that altogether, the Leafs will prevent about five tons of CO2 emissions a day. The agreement with Mexico City includes the installation of charging stations, with equipment provided by General Electric.

In a recent global business plan, Nissan said it aims to offer seven fully electric vehicles between now and 2016, including light commercial vehicles and a premium all-electric car to be launched by Infiniti in 2014.

Cnet reports that BMW has launched the ActiveHybrid 5, based on the 535i, but with a lithium ion battery pack. Similar to BMW’s ActiveHybrid 7, the car has a full hybrid system, so it can operate on electric power alone when in traffic jams.

Convergys Corporation and Plug Smart are collaborating to provide real-time rating, billing and data management support for electric vehicle charging stations. The partnership pairs Plug Smart’s patent-pending charging station technology, Zephyr, with Convergys’ Smart Revenue Solutions.

Ecotality has landed a $26.4 million contract to conduct the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Vehicle Testing and Evaluation project, which aims to benchmark and validate the performance of a variety of alternative fuel vehicles. These include pure electric and hydraulic vehicles, plug-in hybrids and internal combustion engines burning advanced fuels. Ecotality has been a testing partner for the DOE for the past 13 years and has conducted testing for more than 1,250 advanced vehicles.

The company is the provider behind Blink electric vehicle charging systems, and is project manager of The EV Project, the government-backed program which plans to install 15,000 commercial and residential charging stations in 16 cities and major metropolitan areas.

Finally, the Guardian reports that car-makers including Ford, Volkswagen and GM are all making investments in renewable energy projects. Volkswagen has taken the biggest steps, with a €1 billion ($1.35 billion) investment in two offshore wind farms in the North Sea

Picture credit: Chandrika Nair

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5 thoughts on “Green Fleet Briefing: Ford’s Coconut Cars, Escape Hybrid Dropped, Volkswagen Wind

  1. The tree of life strikes again! Current automotive technology is starting to acknowledge and incorporate designs from nature into their vehicles. I applaud these companies for reducing their environmental impact by recycling their by-products. Hopefully more companies join the bandwagon and use recycled materials in their products.

    Juan Miguel Ruiz (Going Green)

  2. I suppose they’re atleast starting to move in the right direction. Just wish they would hurry up, so fuel prices can go down eventually. I think ford are doing really well with this and i could see them starting to lead the way and set an example to the rest.

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  3. To:expertscolumn
    “Just wish they would hurry up, so fuel prices can go down eventually.” What do you mean by this? You must be in the U.S. CHEAP energy was an aberration of availability and economics. These initiatives will help keep personal transportation viable but has nothing to do with the price of fuel.

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