In his novel Car, southern surrealist Harry Crews creates a hero who is determined to eat an entire Ford Maverick “from bumper to bumper.” I like Crews, so my ears pricked up when Ford designers came to town this week with their “Sustainable Harvest” briefing, subtitled, “have your car and eat it too.”
What is this with Ford and food? Is it all some cosmic typo, “ford/food”?
A couple of years, the company got attention for naming body colors after food and beverages, such as crème brulle. One of its latest new hues, said Susan Swek, the company’s chief color designer, is called “ginger ale” a golden green color set to appear on the new Escape.
At the event, several Ford designers and engineers came with a message: we are using plant materials, many of them edible, to replace oil derived ones. The parts, made from corn, soy, flax, wheat and other plants, include such items as door impact crush blocks, arm rests and elements of a “Bio Seat” developed in tandem with Johnson Controls, the major auto parts supplier.
Most of the materials take the place of the perversely polymorphous petroleum product polypropylene. Polyproplene is used in many parts known to the lay person simply as plastic.
Anthony Prozzi, a Brooklyn raised interior designer who came to Ford from Donna Karan, the fashion line, showed off parts made instead from Rincinus Communis, a.k.a. the castor plant—source of castor oil, the infamously awful childhood medication. “Every 300, 000 Focuses with this material saves 5000 barrels of oil,” said Mr. Prozzi.
The company has a long tradition of plant materials. Mr. Prozzi also reminded us of the Ma, the concept vehicle made partly of bamboo, years before it became a chicly sustainable material for kitchen and bath. And Henry Ford was famously obsessed with making cars and just about everything else from plants. He posed in a suit made of fibers of soybean protein and in 1935 was putting soy based parts into cars. He bonded with George Washington Carver over figuring out new uses for the wonder legume, the humble peanut and its shells.
Ford handed out recipes for three dishes—“Smooth Ride Smoothie,” including flaxseed and dandelions and mushrooms, “Focus Fuel” a snack made in part from sweet potatoes and hemp hearts, and a trail mix which includes cacao nibs and flax seed. Just the thing for your green SUV.