Olive trees bear a fruit that is consumed all over the world, as snacks, oil and tapenades. Now, Ford has explored using branches, twigs and leaves that are discarded during harvest for more sustainable auto parts.
The trial was conducted as part of the COMPOlive project that is committed to delivering environmental change in olive production, using biocomposites instead of plastic, and supporting the circular economy.
Using olive tree waste for auto parts could both reduce the plastic used in such parts and support cleaner air in the local area by avoiding burning as a means of waste disposal. Engineers produced prototype footrests and parts of the boot area using olive tree waste. Testing has shown the parts produced are both robust and durable with Ford now evaluating the process for mass use, to potentially help deliver the next wave of electric vehicles.
For the trial, the waste materials were sourced from olive groves in Andalusia, Spain, the region with the highest production of olive oil in the world. 1
First, engineers at Ford’s European headquarters in Cologne, in Germany, used clever simulation technology to test the usability of olive trees in terms of durability, strength, and mouldability. They were then able to go ahead with manufacturing prototypes. Consisting of 40 per cent fibres and 60 per cent recycled polypropylene plastic, the substance was heated and injection moulded into the shape of the selected part.
Alongside our partners across the globe, Ford is making measurable gains against ambitious environmental sustainability targets. The Road to Better is Ford’s commitment to building a more sustainable, inclusive, and equitable transportation future, where every person is free to move and pursue their dreams.
The COMPOlive project, which ran from 2020 to 2023, had to adapt to the travel restrictions imposed by the global pandemic. Project partners only met in person for the first time some two-and-a-half years into the project.
“At Ford, we’re always looking for ways to become more sustainable and sometimes inspiration can strike from the most unlikely places. In using the waste from olive trees, we have been able to substitute a significant amount of petroleum-based raw material in the interior parts. The sustainable fibres create a unique surface appearance and would be directly visible to our customers.” – Inga Wehmeyer, project lead, Ford
“In order to get the mix just right, we had to experiment with different ratios of waste material and polypropylene. It was hard work, but it ultimately enabled us to produce a material that shows no compromise in strength, durability, or flexibility. Thomas Baranowski, injection moulding expert
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