No, SolidSmack is not reporting on recipes to cook the best pizza sauce and neither are we reporting on La Tomatina, however we are simply marveling at the strange bedfellows technology makes. News is that Ford and the ketchup guys H.J. Heinz have gotten together and are working on ways to get tomatoes into the car.
Before you plan a pizza express in your set of wheels, read this out. The deal is to explore how tomato fiber can be developed into a more sustainable bio-plastic material for vehicles. If the research testing of the material’s durability pays off, then we can expect the wiring brackets and storage bins of Ford vehicles to be made of tomato components. It doesn’t take rocket science to figure that the sustainable composite can reduce the impact of vehicles on the environment. This also means a cut down on the use of petrochemicals in manufacturing.
You see, Heinz generates more than 2 million tons of dried tomato skins as their food processing byproduct, and instead of dumping it as waste; it makes perfect sense to use it in cars instead. This is not the first time the automotive industry is looking at using natural alternatives. The BMW i3 uses plant fibers in the interiors of its doors and dash. Moreover Ford has been working with The Coca-Cola Company, Nike Inc. and Procter & Gamble along with Heinz for the past two years, so that can develop a 100% plant-based plastic (PET material – Polyethylene terephthalate and fiber), which can be used to make everything from fabric to packaging and improve their eco-standing.
If we are looking for the challenges with this project then, before the tomato waste can be used, it has to be dried and then ground and finally combined with a polypropylene and cooked. The resulting plastic isn’t as strong as some other products and can’t replace a structural composite. Since cars and trucks use various kinds of plastics, a suitable purpose can be found.
Ellen Lee, plastics research technical specialist for Ford says that the main goal is to develop a strong, lightweight material that meets their vehicle requirements. Bet her office smelled like tomato soup during the testing. Over the years, Ford has stepped up its use of recycled nonmetal and bio-based materials. They have included cellulose fiber-reinforced console components and rice hull-filled electrical cowl brackets last year. This brings Ford’s bio-based portfolio to include eight materials in production. Coconut-based composite materials, recycled cotton material for carpeting and seat fabrics, and soy foam seat cushions and head restraints are the others already in use.
Heave a sigh of relief though; Ford has a panel of people assigned to monitor the odors in the car. You surely don’t want to be trapped in a coconut – tomato – soy fusion. If someone ever asks you, what is the one thing you will wish for, if you are stranded on a deserted island – we reckon the right answer should be a fruit and veggie Ford. This ways, you can start ‘figuratively’ melting the parts by pieces and never go hungry.
Although its not confirmed as yet, but we could see tomato-based wiring brackets and storage bins in a future Fusion or an F-150.