Ford is the first carmaker to model and invest in using reclaimed CO2 to create foam and plastics for automobiles. The company claims that replacing petroleum-based polyols with up to 50 percent CO2 substitutes could elevate over 600 million pounds of oil from its supply chain each year.
Plastics slurp up about four percent of global oil production and require substantial natural gas inputs. Automakers use foam in seat cushions and are increasingly replacing heavy metals with plastics to reduce weight and improve fuel efficiency.
“This technology is exciting because it is contributing to solving a seemingly insurmountable problem – climate change. We are thrilled to be leading the charge toward reducing carbon emissions and the effects of climate change,” said Debbie Mielewski, Ford’s senior technical leader of sustainability.
The car manufacturer is working with several universities and companies to develop its environmentally-friendly foam and plastic. One of the companies, Novomer, uses captured CO2 pollution to create versatile and inexpensive polymers that can be used for a variety of purposes, such as car parts.
Ford and Novomer get CO2 from manufacturing and power plants. “Right now it’s the smartest thing to take it from a concentrated stream that would otherwise end up being discharged into the environment,” Mielewski explained. “In order to capture it from the atmosphere would take a lot more energy.”
Experts estimate that directly capturing CO2 from the atmosphere would cost about $1,000 per ton; whereas, mitigating emissions in the energy, transportation and agriculture sectors would cost substantially less. Therefore, it is unlikely that direct air capture will be deployed on a large-scale for the foreseeable future.
The automaker plans on taking the new eco-friendly technology to market within five years. Ford also aspires to further develop plastic substitutes that can be used in a variety of applications to help the planet reduce its dependence on fossil fuels.