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Ford using rice hull-reinforced plastic in F-150s

Ford is using plastic reinforced with rice hulls—a byproduct of rice grain—in an electrical harness in the 2014 F-150. The company will need at least 45,000 pounds of hulls in the first year.

The 2014 F-Series exemplifies our continued efforts to use recycled content in our vehicles. We can have greater impact in this case because of the size and sales volume of this product.

—John Viera, Ford global director of sustainability and vehicle environmental matters

The rice hulls are sourced from farms in Arkansas and will replace a talc-based reinforcement in a polypropylene composite made by RheTech, a Whitmore Lake, Mich.-based automotive supplier.

Materials development engineers at Ford Materials Engineering, Testing and Standards in Dearborn, in conjunction with RheTech, conducted testing of the rice hull material for more than a year, examining everything from smell and appearance to functionality and flammability. The rice hull-based material successfully passed all tests.

Rice hull-reinforced plastic is the most recent example of Ford researchers and engineers using sustainable material whenever possible in the F-Series. F-Series trucks already feature:

  • Recycled cotton: Used as carpet insulation and a sound absorber; every 2014 F-150 contains enough recycled cotton to make the equivalent of 10 pairs of jeans.

  • Soybeans: Used to make seat cushions, seat backs and head restraints.

  • Recycled carpet: Some F-150 trucks have cylinder head covers made with EcoLon, a nylon resin produced from 100% post-consumer recycled carpet.

  • Recycled tires: A thermoplastic material made from recycled tires and post-consumer recycled polypropylene is used to make shields and some underbody covers on F-150.

  • Recycled plastic soda pop and water bottles: A lightweight fiber derived from recycled plastic soda pop and water bottles is used to construct F-150 wheel liners and shields. The parts are significantly lighter than traditional injection molded parts and lead to a quieter ride. Select F-Series trucks feature fabric made from recycled fiber.

  • Recycled post-industrial plastics: Used in interior finish panels, including around radio and climate controls.

With F-Series as America’s best-selling truck for 36 years—averaging more than 650,000 sales per yea—the environmental impact of being as sustainable as possible adds up. Ford estimates about 10 million pounds of recycled cotton are used in F-Series trucks annually.

Fuel economy is a top priority when it comes to Ford’s environmental impact. But we also recognize the tremendous impact that can be made by using sustainable materials inside our cars, utilities and trucks.

— Carrie Majeske, Ford product sustainability manager


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