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Ford considers injecting old money into car manufacture


May 2, 2012

Ford is expanding its search for readily-available, sustainable materials to use in vehicle component manufacture instead of oil-based plastics

Ford is expanding its search for readily-available, sustainable materials to use in vehicle component manufacture instead of oil-based plastics

Once the cornerstone of economic prosperity, the passing of paper money from one hand to another is definitely on the decline in our modern digital age. Yet there are obviously lots of folks who still use cash, as evidenced by the eight to ten thousand pounds (3,628 - 4,535 kg) of crumpled and tired-looking paper currency that's said to be shredded every day in the U.S. alone, before being compressed into bricks and then buried or burned. That's a shocking waste, and car giant Ford appears to agree. As part of an ongoing effort to find sustainable alternatives to petroleum-based vehicle components, the Michigan-based multinational automaker is looking to re-use retired dollar bills in the manufacture of trays and bins, in the same way wheat straw is currently used in the Ford Flex.

Ford's research into green alternatives to petroleum-based automotive components began in the early part of this century, when a barrel of oil was priced at US$16.65. Soybean farmers approached the company in search of new ways to make use of an abundant U.S. harvest and while early attempts at creating soya-based foam were less than successful, Ford's researchers persevered and after five years managed to successfully meet the company's strict quality standards. Soya-based foam is now used for cushions in all North American vehicles, saving around five million pounds (2,268 metric tons) of petroleum every year.

The 2013 Ford Fusion is said to contain the equivalent of a little more than two pairs of blue jean denim used for sound dampening material, the new Escape features door bolsters made from kenaf (a tropical plant in the cotton family) which saves 300,000 pounds (136 metric tons) of oil-based resin annually, and wood fiber is being used in the doors of Ford's new Focus Electric. Plastic bottles are finding their way into seat fabric and carpeting, and cotton from t-shirts, sweaters and denim is being re-used in the manufacture of dashboards.

The cost of oil has risen dramatically in the years since Ford's early experiments - with the price per barrel reaching a staggering US$109.77 earlier this year - and prompted the company to intensify its search for sustainable, renewable materials.

Last year, we revealed that Ford researchers had turned their attention to chocolate to produce lighter plastic parts for the company's vehicles, now they're looking at dandelions as an alternative to rubber, coconuts coir to reinforce plastics, corn and sugar cane for alternative plastics and, as mentioned earlier, retired U.S. currency.

The company says that these readily-available, sustainable and renewable source materials may never actually be used in a future Ford product but the fact that such things are now being given serious consideration as sustainable alternatives for the 300 pounds (136 kg) of oil-based plastic found in an average vehicle - as opposed to being, at the very least, frowned upon - is a very good sign indeed.

Source: Ford

About the Author
Paul Ridden While Paul is loath to reveal his age, he will admit to cutting his IT teeth on a TRS-80 (although he won't say which version). An obsessive fascination with computer technology blossomed from hobby into career before the desire for sunnier climes saw him wave a fond farewell to his native Blighty in favor of Bordeaux, France. He's now a dedicated newshound pursuing the latest bleeding edge tech for Gizmag. All articles by Paul Ridden

Well golly - adding 40,000,000 fuel miles to their oil stock derived fertilised crops, along with the gigawatts of power to process it all, just to make a 5% decompostable 2,200Kg steel car - that gets 14K to the liter.......

Damn that is smart green washing!

So is that a real FUEL efficiency upgrade OR just a lowering of the manufacturing costs?

If the people who manage Ford read this - where is the 2 seater that gets 300K to the liter?

Mr Stiffy

And the most versatile of all bio crops is STILL ignored, "Comercial Hemp".

The mind boggles at the ineptitude of the multinationals, sad really.

Sharon Hamilton

Agree with Mr. Stiffy, my 1987 Saab 900 turbo averages 35mpg, better than the 14K per liter (32.93 mpg). How can we go 25 years with such poor progress? Why switch to a Prius or Insight or any number of others when the oil costs to produce such blows away the green benefits of driving it?


The path of composites such as carbon fiber is harmful to the environment. The path of natural fibers requires large lots production of raw materials and high cost industrialization systems, although of less offensive disposal . The medium pathway is the reduction of range of the materials used, the maintenance of metals use, by its easy to recycle, and reduce the size of vehicles. However, in the future, cars will turn into magnetic levitation capsules, with no wheels, nor pollutant rubber tire.


If this old paper money is shredded and could be used for this purpose, I would think they could find a way to shred it down to a pulp and make new paper to print new bills on or perhaps something else paper related?

Gene Jordan

re; Gene Jordan

In an effort to reduce counterfeiting it is illegal to make paper from it for arguably good reasons.

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