When you think of pickup trucks, sustainability doesn't usually come to the forefront of your mind. That may be all about to change, however, as Ford is incorporating some eco-friendly materials into its upcoming lineup of F-Series pickup trucks.
Ford's new processes
Ford recently announced that it would adopt a new practice as part of the production of its F-Series pickup trucks. Instead of the talc material once used in the electrical harnesses of its trucks, the automaker will be employing rice hulls to do the job. These hulls, which are a byproduct of rice grain, will be used to reinforce plastic used throughout the trucks.
At least 45,000 pounds of rice hulls will be used in the first year of production alone. All of the natural products will be sourced from farms in Arkansas and are part of a process created by RheTech, an automotive supplier. The end goal was to create a product that would be safer for the environment without sacrificing the toughness and rugged qualities that Ford drivers have come to expect.
"We developed this resin specifically for Ford over the last three years, working with the automaker closely, including in all phases of material qualification," said David Preston, director of business development for RheTech. "The whole process has been a rewarding success for both Ford and RheTech, which can add yet another natural-fiber based product to our RheVision line."
In addition to the rice hulls, Ford will be using recycled cotton, soybeans, recycled tires and recycled plastic bottles for other sections of the trucks. In fact, Ford claims that just one 2014 F-150 truck will have the equivalent of 10 pairs of jeans or 31 T-shirts integrated into its body. These products will be used in seat cushions, carpets and plastic liners throughout the truck, and none of the changes will impact the way in which drivers make truck modifications down the line.
Making a difference
Most of the efforts surrounding eco-friendly vehicles go toward improving fuel economy. While that is certainly a focus for Ford, these new manufacturing processes will allow the automaker to start making a difference before the trucks even leave the production facility.
As the most popular truck in the U.S., the F-Series sells more than 600,000 models each year - leaving a lot of room for environmentally sound practices to make a positive impact. If this round of green processes is successful, Ford will likely expand the use of rice hulls and other products for future trucks.
"The 2014 F-Series exemplifies our continued efforts to use recycled content in our vehicles," said John Viera, Ford's global director of sustainability and vehicle environmental matters. "We can have a greater impact in this case because of the size and sales volume of this product."
Don't let up when off-roading
These positive sustainable practices center around upcoming Ford F-Series trucks, but even drivers who frequently get behind the wheel of older models can do their part to help the environment - without sacrificing the fun that goes along with off-road driving.
An easy way to embrace eco-friendly practices with your off-road vehicle is by taking care of the nature and trails that you drive through in your experiences. Don't litter while driving and do your best to avoid harming the land surrounding the trails. This includes taking care when you pull over so as not to damage the wilderness and cleaning up any synthetic materials that may spill into nature in the event of an issue.