It is said that Henry Ford the originator of Ford Motors built a soybean car in 1941, all part of his dream to combine the fruits of the industry he ventured into with agriculture. However, the aftermath of World War II saw the price of oil at a record low and accordingly, the company focused on and continued production of cars that both ran on petroleum and comprised petroleum car parts.
A small research facility near Ford’s headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan persisted in Ford’s dream, continuously integrating soy products, among other natural, renewable materials, into Ford cars and trucks. Of course oil got more expensive, hitting a high of $160 a barrel in 2007 and then the entire Ford team began to seriously consider the work of the small lab. The result was the start of a custom of incorporating soy materials into every cushion, seatback, and headrest or other small car parts on every Ford vehicle sold in the US.
They learnt and are still learning how to make use of a wide range of waste materials in Ford cars. For this reason Ford and quite a number of other car companies are now actively producing and refining vehicles that are not reliant on gasoline to run. The car parts however still make use of plastic parts which are created from fossil fuels, in their interiors. This is where Ford seems to be ahead of their peers as they take on the task of utilizing carbon-dioxide, one of the most pervasive greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, and using it to create foams for future car seat cushions.
The company announced on Monday that it is partnering with Novomer, a company that captures carbon dioxide produced by manufacturing plants. They will provide the lab with the waste material as it continues to develop its foams. The reality is that there is no guarantee that the research and experimentation will yield a useful product in the end, but a vision of a company that incorporates in the makeup of an entire vehicle, the waste product carbon dioxide that would have otherwise just clogged our atmosphere is laudable.
It is also a lesson to Africa both as a further realization that the world is indeed moving away from reliance on fossil fuels and an encouragement to the car manufacture companies springing up around the continent to also be cognizant of innovations beyond coupling complete cars in Africa.