How Ford built a car with wheat straw, coconut husk

Ford Motor Company's first all-electric car goes beyond electricity

ORLANDO, Fla. - Driving the new Focus Electric means never having to say you're thirsty. For fuel.

Quick Facts:

  • 110mpg (equivalent) city driving.
  • 99mpg (equivalent) highway driving.
  • Runs 76 miles on a single charge.
  • Focus Electric's top speed is 84mph (I took it on a test drive. It's a zippy car with good pick-up).
  • The car runs at least 76 miles on a single charge.
  • Fully charges in four hours. Partially charges in less.

But the numbers don't tell the whole story. The Ford Motor Company has adopted a sustainable materials strategy that makes the Focus Electric a true green machine. Recyclable materials, like post-consumer plastics, are made into everything from underbody shields to roof lining to carpets.

"We have a challenge to see how many plastic bottles we can get into Focus Electric," D'Arcy said. "There's an average of 22 plastic bottles in the cushions."

That's 22 plastic bottles per vehicle that don't end up in landfills. Other sustainable materials include post-industrial cotton from blue jeans which is re-spun into insulation materials below the floor and inside the doors. Post-consumer nylon carpeting becomes the resin for cylinder head covers. Wheat straw, coconut husk, and other plant fiber-reinforced plastic are used for vehicle storage bins and interior door panels.

"Approximately 85 percent of materials in Fords are recyclable. All Ford models, not just the Focus Electric," said D'Arcy.

None of this earthy-crunchy greenery comes at the expense of technology, however.

Both the car's navigation system and a mobile based app let the driver monitor the car's charge, status and range. It also maps out charge stations available on the desired route.

"So you can route your vehicle to the nearest charge station if you feel you need to increase your distance or state of charge," D'Arcy explained.

The vehicle is also equipped with a capability called value charging, allowing owners to program the car to charge when their electric rates are lowest if power companies charge peak and off-peak rates.

"It might be midnight when it's at its cheapest point. You can come home plug your vehicle in. It won't charge until midnight, at which point you're incurring the lowest cost of energy," said D'Arcy.

Ford has priced the Focus Electric just under $40,000. There are federal and some state rebates available which can bring the cost down.

The cars will be in showrooms by late summer.

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