These Rides Put the "Car" in "Reincarnated"
Recycling parts at the end of a car’s life is a good environmental move, but auto manufacturers are taking it one step further by going green right from the start. Several companies use recycled or renewable materials to make automotive parts like foam and plastics. While this has been a practice for some automakers for several years now, it’s becoming more popular with the increase in hybrids and electric vehicles. Below are just some of the vehicles that recycle, reduce, and reuse.
The electric vehicle’s seats are formed from a synthetic material made from old PET (polyethylene terephthalate) soda bottles, while the resin used to make larger plastic pieces such as the dash also come from recycled materials. Recycled clothes help form the sound insulator underneath the hood, and old electrical appliances such as refrigerators and washing machines find new life as the Leaf’s center console.
The BMW i3 is much greener than its fuel economy suggests. The wood is finished with very minimal processing, and olive leaves are used to tan the leather instead of the usual formaldehyde or other chemicals. The door trim panels and dash are made from renewable natural fibers, and the wood trim is open-pore eucalyptus certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
Ford has been a leader in using recycled and renewable materials in its cars for quite some time. Since 2011, all Ford vehicles built in North American use seat cushions made from soy foam. The foam reduces the company’s annual CO2 emissions by 20 million pounds – the annual equivalent of emissions from more than 1,500 typical American households. Soy oil is used to create the sealing rubber applied throughout the car, and researchers are reportedly looking into using dandelion for similar purposes. Ford continues to forge ahead by experimenting with other new environmentally friendly materials.
Ford Fusion Energi
A specially developed Fusion Energy PHEV broke new ground for the company when Ford teamed up with Coca-Cola so that it could use plant-based renewable material from recycled Coke bottles for the PHEV’s seats. The material was used for the seat cushions, seat backs, head restraints, door panel inserts, and headliner. This material was used only on a demonstration vehicle, but all other Fusion Energi vehicles use recycled denim for the carpets.
A new composite plastic material reinforced with rice hulls was introduced in the wire harness of the 2014 Ford F-150. The rice hulls, which are a by-product of rice grains, are sourced from U.S. farms. The F-150, like several other Ford vehicles including the Mustang, Edge, Escape, C-Max, and Escape use post-industrial and post-consumer recycled yarns for seat fabric inserts and bolsters.
The ponycar’s seat fabrics are made of Repreve, a hybrid fiber made from recycled plastic water bottles and post-industrial waste. This material was first used in the 2012 Ford Focus, and approximately 22 16-ounce water bottles are used to make the seat fabric in the 2014 model (a 2015 is shown here). Other models that use Repreve include the Fusion S and SE, the F-150, and 2014 Ford Edge.
The crossover uses post-consumer recycled nylon in several underhood parts including the air cleaner housings, engine fans, fan shrouds, HVAC temperature valves, engine covers, cam covers, and carbon canisters. Nylon resin made from recycled carpets is used for the cylinder head covers.
The large people-mover makes use of “green” seals and gaskets that incorporate renewable soybean oils and recycled tires. Eight vehicles in the lineup including the Focus, Fusion, and Taurus benefit from this material. This green method has certainly paid its dividends, as Ford reports it eliminated approximately 112,000 pounds of used tires from landfills in 2013. The Flex also uses wheat-straw reinforced plastic in its storage bins.
Cellulose-reinforced plastic was first introduced in the 2014 MKX. This material is used to replace fiberglass reinforcement in the center console. The cellulose fibers in this composite come from sustainably grown and harvested trees and related by-products.
Jeep Grand Cherokee
The off-roader uses recycled polyurethane foam plastic in its seat cushions instead of soy. In doing so, Chrysler takes foam that would’ve gone to the landfill and chemically decomposes it to create new raw materials. In 2010, the company estimated this process would save about 180,000 pounds of foam from reaching landfills per year, but that number could easily grow since the company aims to expand the usage. In addition, the wheel liners of the Jeep Wrangler and Chrysler 200 are made with 64 percent recycled plastics. In FCA’s 2014 sustainability report, the company revealed that two new materials containing recycled content were approved for underbody, sealing, and engine applications.
The Japanese automaker also does its part in the green method, however, it’s vague about how it uses recycled materials in its cars. Honda says it recycles scrap bumpers generated during the manufacturing process, with plastics from bumpers produced at Honda plants in the U.S. and Canada reformulated to make mud and splash guards. The automaker also states that it has achieved maintaining a minimum 90 percent level of design recyclability for all Honda and Acura vehicles. “As of 2004, all new Honda and Acura automobiles have met or exceeded the 90 percent target. Honda will continue to look for new ways to improve the design recyclability of future products, in balance with other critical considerations, such as quality, efficiency, cost, and durability.”
Toyota uses bio-based plastics in the seat cushions of the Prius, Corolla, Matrix, and RAV4. The Lexus RX350 and CT 200h also use the material in their seat cushions. These plastics are derived either wholly or in part from plant materials and are also used in several other parts and components.
The air deflectors in older Volts were made from oil booms from the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico back in 2010. The automaker also reports that in 2013, it used 12 warehouses worth of packaging foam to make vehicle parts. Other efforts include utilizing paint sludge and used machining media filters to manufacture reusable engine pallets for the Volt and the Cruze.
Kia Soul EV
The Soul EV’s interior is made up of bio-based organic plastics derived from cellulose and sugarcane. This organic material amounts to nearly 53 pounds per vehicle and is used to make 19 different interior parts including the Soul EV’s door panels, headliner, seat trim, roof pillars, and carpets.
The electric car’s front and rear bumpers, instrument panel, and door trim are made from recycled polypropylene materials.
Volkswagen says renewable materials are used for the Golf’s interior door trim and in coolants. The wheel arch liner and cover for the tackle mount area are also made of 100 percent recycled material, with the underbody tray made of 70 percent secondary raw materials.