While many Lincoln MKX drivers may be tying trees to the top of their vehicles this time of year, 2014 will see the MKX crossover with tree-based components inside the vehicle.
A three-year collaboration between The Lincoln Motor Company, timber giant Weyerhaeuser and auto parts supplier Johnson Controls has birthed a tree-based, renewable alternative to fiberglass for use in auto parts.
Using tree-harvested natural fibers in place of traditional glass-based fibers, Weyerhaeuser created Cellulose Reinforced Polypropylene (CRP), which is lighter and more eco-friendly than fiberglass. The compound is slated for introduction on 2014 model year Lincoln MKX vehicles built early next year.
CRP replaces the fiberglass material traditionally used in the floor console armrest substrate – a structural piece located within the center console armrest. Pieces made from CRP are roughly 6 percent lighter and decrease the reliance on less-environmentally friendly fiberglass parts.
The development and use of Cellulose Reinforced Polypropylene, while relatively small in the current project, marks an advancement that has the potential to play a more impactful role in the future, according to Ellen Lee, plastics research technical expert for Ford Motor Company.
“If we transfer its use to larger parts, it could really benefit the vehicle weight, which benefits fuel economy,” Lee said. “Cellulose has good reinforcement, so we looked at fiberglass-reinforced materials for this project.”
Cellulose Reinforced Polypropylene has been used in Ford prototype vehicles in the past but its use on Lincoln MKX marks its first application on a production vehicle.
“Today’s Lincoln customer is someone who appreciates luxury but it has to have meaning in the larger picture,” said Dan Brady, Lincoln consumer marketing manager. “They want to be proud of their car for what it does for them but a sustainability that provides something more. This customer is about standing apart but not out, meaning the brand is right for them because of stunning design but carries a personal bonus such as an environmentally impactful element.”
Brady says the added eco-friendly element is unique and provides context to the purchase of a luxury item.
Ford is no stranger to incorporating eco-friendly materials in the name of decreasing its vehicles’ weight and footprint, including collaborating on the first-ever interior fabric made from Coke’s PlantBottle technology; recycled plastic bottles and denim for seat fabric and soundproofing material, respectively; and researching the use of lightweight carbon fiber composites in high-volume vehicle bodies.