Ford's Eco Cars: A More Sustainable Approach to Vehicle Interiors

Ford designers and researchers are taking a total green approach to vehicle development and design, stepping beyond just fuel efficiency and what’s under the hood and incorporating more sustainable materials and processes inside the vehicle, too.

Ford’s award-winning soy-based foam seat cushions and backs, for example, will be on more than 1 million Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles by the end of this year, leading to a total reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of more than 5 million pounds. Most recently, Ford announced that the all-new 2010 Ford Taurus SHO, Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ will feature sustainable interior materials such as seat fabrics made with varying degrees of post-industrial yarns, suede-like material created from plastic pop bottles, chromium-free leather and engineered ebony wood, all of which reduce waste, energy consumption and CO2 emissions.

To ensure these greener material measures resonate with customers, Ford designers are gaining a deeper understanding of the different levels of green consumerism. Statistics show that one in four adults in the U.S. are living more sustainable lifestyles; interested in companies that are more socially responsible and buying products that are healthier for people and the planet.

Designers also are examining what’s the most expressive way to use these materials in vehicle interiors and how do they best represent the vehicle brand. Customers, for example, expect suede to look and feel like suede even if it’s made from plastic bottles. Interior wood accents, a common luxury-car cue, must exhibit rich colors and textures, whether it’s derived from a natural veneer or a more eco-friendly reconstituted wood veneer.

Ford researchers are challenged with developing alternative interior materials that perform without compromise to functionality or durability, can be manufactured in a more eco-friendly manner, decrease our dependence on foreign oil and are cost effective. No interior application is off limits on the research front, with plastics, rubber, foam, film and fabric under the microscope. No material is discarded as a possible substitute, either, from recycled items such as old blue jeans and plastic pop bottles to bio-based sources such as hemp, wheat straw, corn and soybeans.

The goal is to provide the company with as many sustainable material choices as possible for interior components front to back, from seat cushions and fabrics to underbody and impact shields, headliners, trunk liners and more.

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