Ford has added rice hulls to the list of sustainable materials used to build its F-150 truck.
As part of the company’s ongoing efforts to use recycled content in its vehicles, Ford is using plastic reinforced with rice hulls — a byproduct of rice grain — in an electrical harness in the 2014 F-150. The company says it will need at least 45,000 pounds of hulls in the first year.
The rice hulls are sourced from farms in Arkansas and will replace a talc-based reinforcement in a polypropylene composite made by RheTech, a Whitmore Lake, Mich.-based automotive supplier.
RheTech developed the resin specifically for Ford, says David Preston, director of business development for RheTech.
Rice hull-reinforced plastic is the latest sustainable material used in the F-Series. The trucks already use:
- Recycled cotton as carpet insulation and a sound absorber. Every 2014 F-150 contains enough recycled cotton to make the equivalent of 10 pairs of jeans, Ford says. Ford estimates about 10 million pounds of recycled cotton are used in F-Series trucks annually.
- Soybeans to make seat cushions, seat backs and head restraints.
- Recycled carpet. Some F-150 trucks have cylinder head covers made with EcoLon, a nylon resin produced from 100 percent post-consumer recycled carpet.
- Recycled tires and post-consumer recycled polypropylene to make shields and some underbody covers on F-150.
- Recycled plastic soda pop and water bottles to construct F-150 wheel liners and shields. The parts are significantly lighter than traditional injection molded parts, Ford says. Select F-Series trucks use fabric made from recycled fiber.
- Recycled post-industrial plastics in interior finish panels, including around radio and climate controls.
Materials development engineers at Ford Materials Engineering, Testing and Standards in Dearborn, Mich., in conjunction with RheTech, conducted testing of the rice hull material for more than a year, examining everything from smell and appearance to functionality and flammability. The rice hull-based material successfully passed all tests, Ford says.
The eco-friendly aspects of F-Series extend to the powertrain. The available 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine combines technologies typically associated with heavy-duty truck diesel engines — turbocharging and direct fuel injection — in a gasoline engine. The engine delivers fuel economy gains of up to 20 percent, while reducing CO2 emissions by up to 15 percent, the company says.
Further, the 2014 F-150 equipped with a 3.7-liter V6 engine will be available this fall with a factory-installed package that allows the engine to run on compressed natural gas or liquefied petroleum gas.