Ford is reportedly interested in replacing car parts with coffee waste. The auto manufacturer reached out to McDonald’s recently to try and tap into the fast-food chain’s coffee suppliers.
Ford plans to use coffee chaff to replace plastic headlamps in some cars. Coffee chaff is coffee bean skin that comes off during the roasting process. The organic material is lightweight and environmentally friendly. There is also plenty of supply available, and a lot is wasted today.
Traditionally, Ford has used plastic and talc for its headlamp housing. At a time when many companies are trying to reduce carbon emissions and environmental footprints, Ford’s experimentation with coffee chaff makes perfect sense.
Ford Relying More on Sustainable Materials
Ford has been exploring use cases for organic materials in cars for more than 10 years. The U.S.-based auto company has filled seat cushions with soy-based foam since 2011. Waste from coconut, tomato, wheat, and other plants have also made it into Ford’s vehicles.
The company’s senior technical leader of materials sustainability, Debbie Miewelski, has led the organic material charge. “If you came to our lab, it looks somewhere between a landfill and a farm,” says Miewelski.
She only recently decided to go full steam ahead on incorporating coffee chaff into Ford’s manufacturing processes. Ford reached out to McDonald’s to figure out how to get the material after deciding how to use it. Looking ahead, the auto giant wants to use coffee chaff more widely for other vehicle parts.
McDonald’s Leading the Way
Surprising to many, McDonald’s is a global coffee powerhouse. The company doesn’t roast any coffee, but it’s locations serve more than 500 million cups per year across the world.
Today, McDonald’s sources 100 percent of its U.S. coffee sustainably, which means that both the people and land involved in cultivating the coffee are positively impacted. Much of the motivation behind the company’s efforts are related to how climate change is impacting regions where coffee is grown.
Overall, McDonald’s serves 68 million people every day. The fast-food chain has tremendous influence over how other food distributors source and serve their products to consumers. McDonald’s also has clear and ambitious sustainability goals, which is why Ford came knocking.
Ford Gearing Up for the Future
Ford has also made headlines for other sustainability-related actions. The company plans to release an electric pickup truck and compete directly with Tesla’s new Cybertruck. Ford’s model likely won’t hit the market until at least 2021, though it appears the trucks will look similar to its existing fleet design.
Earlier this year, the company also invested $500 million in the new electric vehicle startup Rivian. With the cash injection, Ford hopes to equip the innovative auto manufacturer with the means to compete with Elon Musk. Additionally, Ford will gain minority ownership in the company as long as regulators approve the deal.
A fleet of autonomous Ford vehicles will also land in Austin in the near future. Last month, the company began mapping the streets of the city in preparation for its robotic taxi and delivery program. With all of these moves, Ford is proving it can adapt to the ever-evolving vehicle manufacturing landscape.