Ford Motor Company has been making automobiles for more than 100 years. But the company isn’t just about cars anymore.
In fact, Ford has a futurist whose job description is to predict the future about pretty much everything but cars. In a video released yesterday, the company explained how it is getting into another non-vehicle specific sector: sustainable plastics manufacturing.
It’s been an eventful year for the company in the automotive realm, sure: Ford overpaid for Teslas, made sneaky cop cars, and announced plans to get autonomous vehicles on the road in just a few years. But now the company’s “team of nerd rockstars” (their language, not ours) is working on a way to turn carbon dioxide into foam and plastics. Development is being led by a recently announced partnership with sustainability company Novomer, Quartz reports.
“Carbon dioxide has been acknowledged as a real environmental issue,” says the narrator in Ford’s innovation video. “A huge benefit to society, to the whole planet, is to sequester that carbon dioxide and actually make things that we need to use.”
Allegedly, the process was inspired by the way plants take CO2 and use it to make sugar. Ford is working to use CO2 (and then dump in some additives) to make plastic. It’s not the type of fortified plastic that can be put on the outside of the car, though. Think small — cupholders, for instance. In other words, this is hardly, at this point, an automotive technology.
The video skims over the basic idea of taking carbon dioxide from a concentrated waste stream (like a factory) and then polymerizing it to make plastic.
“We compound it with other additives, we injection mold it into the shape of the part we want,” the voice in the video explains. “So waste materials are becoming durable performance materials.”
The fact that Ford is diversifying into sustainable manufacturing shouldn’t come as a surprise. Ford is looking beyond its roots as a car company to expand into a “mobility” company. Mobility covers every possible way that people get around, Ford’s vice president of research and advanced engineering Ken Washington told Inverse in March.
Sustainability needs to come sooner rather than later, especially for cities like Miami and New Orleans. But a lot will have to change to keep the inevitable sinking from happening. Ford, however, seems optimistic.
The new Ford video closes with its hopeful narrator explaining: “We’re looking way into the future and we’re saying, you can do things that most people think you can’t.”