Currently your car is made from zero parts tomato, but in the future, that will likely not be the case. In perhaps some of the strangest automobile developments of late, Ford is teaming up with Heinz ketchup to produce tomato-based car parts. (No, this isn’t some April Fool’s joke 5 months late.)
The cars won’t be powered by ketchup – though that would be extremely cool – but engineers and scientists do envision car parts like wiring brackets and storage bins made from leftover tomato skins, seeds, stems, and other plant waste. Ford has reportedly been working with Heinz and Procter & Gamble for close to two years on creating a plastic that is 100 percent plant-based and can hold up to regular automobile use. It’s still in the early development stages, but Ford is confident that the tomato skins and stems will be a successful alternative to petroleum-based plastics. (Previously, most of that plant waste went to feed livestock.)
“We are exploring whether this food processing byproduct makes sense for an automotive application,” says Ellen Lee, plastics research technical specialist for Ford. “Our goal is to develop a strong, lightweight material that meets our vehicle requirements, while at the same time reducing our overall environmental impact.”
Plant-based products aren’t an incredibly new thing, but have been growing in popularity in recent years.
“Ford has been working with plant fibers for more than a decade,” said Ms. Lee, and last year introduced cellulose fiber-reinforced console components and rice hull-filled electrical cowl brackets. The company is also working with coconut-based composite materials and recycled cotton material for carpeting and seat fabrics.
Considering that our country, scratch that, our planet is already too dependent on petroleum, this is incredibly positive news. It’s also another reminder of Ford’s commitment to American-made products and innovation. (Not to mention something to ponder next time you squirt some ketchup on a plate of french fries.)