Sitting on empty plastic bottles while driving or riding in a car would be less than ideal. That’s not the case when it comes to the all-new Ford Focus Electric, as it features seat fabric made of recycled material that includes the equivalent of more than 20 plastic bottles per car.
The fiber – called REPREVE® – is made from a hybrid blend of recycled materials and manufactured by Unifi, Inc. (NYSE: UFI), a global leader in sustainable textile solutions.
Unifi officials say 22 plastic, 16-ounce water bottles are used in the seat fabric of a single Focus Electric. The figure is based on the amount of REPREVE branded fiber used in the production of fabric in each vehicle.
Ford is the first automaker to use REPREVE branded fiber in its seat fabric.
“What better vehicle than the Focus Electric to put seat fabric made of recycled materials?” said Carol Kordich, lead designer of Sustainable Materials for Ford. “Not only does the use of this fabric in Focus Electric help reduce waste, it also helps to offset the need to produce new raw material from crude oil – a process that consumes precious energy and natural resources.”
The 2012 Ford Focus Electric is green in other ways, too. Focus Electric runs on battery power alone, requiring no gasoline and producing zero carbon dioxide emissions.
“We are excited to work with Ford for the introduction of REPREVE into the automotive industry,” said Roger Berrier, president and COO of the Greensboro, N.C.-based Unifi. “As REPREVE continues to expand into new applications and markets, consumers are becoming more aware of companies like Ford and Unifi working together to make a positive impact on the environment.”
In 2009 Ford mandated that fabric suppliers use a minimum of 25 percent recycled content for all 2009 and beyond model year vehicles. Since then, 37 different fabrics meeting the requirements have been developed and incorporated into Ford vehicles.
Kordich said Ford is taking it a step further by mandating that fabric be 100 percent sustainable in vehicles with eco-conscious powertrains like the Focus Electric.
REPREVE fits the bill, she said, because it is a combination of post-industrial fiber waste and post-consumer waste, like the plastic water bottles made of polyethylene terephthalate plastic. Using REPREVE also reduces energy consumption by offsetting the need to use newly refined crude oil for production.
“It made sense when we were designing the Focus Electric to keep pushing for even more innovative ways to offer our customers the best, most environmentally sound products without sacrificing quality,” said Kordich.
REPREVE meets all Ford performance requirements, said Kordich, and Ford already is considering other uses across its entire car and truck lineup.
Eco-conscious solutions Ford’s “Reduce, reuse and recycle” commitment is part of the company’s broader global sustainability strategy to reduce its environmental footprint while at the same time accelerating the development of advanced, fuel-efficient vehicle technologies around the world.
Last month, Ford announced it is using 25 20-ounce plastic bottles to make the carpeting in every all-new Ford Escape utility vehicle it builds. It’s the first time Ford has used this type of carpeting in an SUV.
Over the past several years Ford has concentrated on increasing the use of nonmetal recycled and bio-based materials whenever possible, provided these materials are environmentally favorable in the specific application. Examples include soy foam seat cushions and head restraints, wheat straw-filled plastic, castor oil foam in instrument panels, recycled resins for underbody systems, recycled yarns on seat covers and natural-fiber plastic for interior components.