Ford Rouge Truck Factory in Dearborn: Ford Eco Tour

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We kick off Day 2 of the #FordEcoTour with an EcoBoost presentation by Don Kuzich, Systems Engineer and Stephen Russ,Technical Leader.

By combining advanced engine technologies such as turbocharger, direct injection and variable valve timing, Ford EcoBoost engines can help customers conserve fuel without sacrificing power. EcoBoost can improve fuel economy by as much as 20% and it’s available in all Ford models. For 2015, the Ford F-150 customers can opt for 2.7-liter EcoBoost engine while the Ford Mustang will feature an all-new 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine and the Ford Edge comes standard with a twin-scroll 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder.

This year also marks an important milestone as the 5 millionth EcoBoost-equipped vehicle rolls off the assembly line. Ford produced more than 200,000 EcoBoost engines per month worldwide.

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After a quick bus ride, we arrived at Ford’s state of the art manufacturing facility, the Rouge Truck Plant. In 2000, the 600 acre factory underwent a major $2 billion redevelopment laying the groundwork for Ford’s green strategy.

More than 1 million visitors from all over the world have taken the Ford Rouge factory tour. The tour is designed to educate visitors on the history of Ford Rouge Center and provide a first hand look at how the new F-150s are made. The tour has been recognized as one of 10 great places that inspire innovation by USA Today. It is ranked No. 4 on Time magazine’s “Detroit: 10 Things to Do” list.

“The Rouge factory tour is a true gem, in that it showcases the history and the legacy of Henry Ford’s industrial vision, while highlighting the innovation taking place at Ford today,” said Cynthia Jones, general manager, Ford Rouge factory tour. “As we evolve the tour, we plan to create something memorable that people young and old can enjoy for years to come.”

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The Rogue Truck Plant house the world’s largest living roof, according to the Guinness World Records.

The 10.4-acre living roof is composed of a drought-resistant perennial ground cover called sedum which is planted into a specially layered bed. The sedum roof can absorb up to 4 million gallons of rainwater annually creating a natural storm water management system that costs two-thirds less to operate than a conventional treatment system.

The roof is covered with 11 plant species that act as natural insulation and lowering the amount of heat entering the building by 70% and reducing cooling costs by 5%.

The green roof is expected to last twice as long as a traditionally constructed roof.

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The Rogue Truck Plant has produced more than 2.6 million F-150 trucks since it opened in May 2004. The plant now has more than 3,600 employees on a three-crew operating pattern producing 1,200 F-150 trucks daily. The plant is capable of building up to nine models on three vehicle platforms. It has close to 350 robots between its body and paint shops and final assembly area.

“Dearborn Truck Plant has set world-class standards for efficiency and environmentally friendly manufacturing processes,” said Bruce Hettle, vice president, Ford North America manufacturing. “There is no better way to celebrate 10 years of top-notch manufacturing than gearing up to build the all-new F-150. The hardworking men and women of Dearborn Truck are excited to bring this Built Ford Tough truck to our customers.”

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For me, the highlight of the tour was going to the Bio Material Lab. It was fascinating to learn how Debbie Mielewski, Senior Technical Leader, can turn natural, plant based items like soybeans, sweet potato and wheat into fabrics and plastics.

Ford has also collaborated with Coca Cola, Procter & Gamble, Nike and Heinz to developed new materials. For example, Ford and Heinz had been exploring the use of tomato fiber, basically ketchup byproduct, to develop a more sustainable bio-plastic. Dried tomato skins could become wiring brackets or storage bin in a Ford vehicle.

“We are exploring whether this food processing byproduct makes sense for an automotive application,” said 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.”

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Ford currently use these non-metal recycled and bio-based materials to reduce its dependence on petroleum products.

Soybeans - Ford’s use of soybean-based foam in seat cushions, backs and head restraints saves about 2.2 million kilograms of petroleum annually

Wheat Straw – worked with Canadian universities to recycle this waste product into bio-based resin for the Flex’s storage bin

Rice Hulls – reinforce plastic used in an electrical harness in 2014 F-150

Sweet Potato – turn into plastic used in the door map pocket

Denim – recycled denim is finding new life in Ford vehicles – mostly as a sound deadener

Plastic bottles – the equivalent of about 22 clear, plastic 20-ounce bottles made of polyethylene terephthalate are in the seat fabric of Focus Electric

Recycled tires – most Ford vehicles utilize, recycled- tire gaskets under the hood

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At the same time, Ford is currently experimenting with:

Shredded money – retired U.S. paper currency, with its strong, tensile characteristics, could be used in the manufacture of plastic parts like trays and bins

Dandelions  – part of the Russian dandelion is being studied as a possible alternative to synthetic rubber

Coconuts – a fiber byproduct of coconuts called coir is being studied as a potential reinforcement for molded plastics

Corn and sugar cane – a biodegradable plastic called polylactic acid is derived from sugars in corn, sugar beet and cane and could find use in Ford vehicles

During my 2 days in Dearborn, it was great to get an inside look at Ford’s sustainability and green innovations from REPREVE, EcoBoost to the world’s largest living roof. I’m glad to know Bill Ford continue to be strong advocate of sustainability and oversee new product development that are better for the environment.

Thank you to Ford of Canada for inviting me to Detroit.

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Read Day 1 of the Ford Eco Tour (Henry Ford Museum, Dearborn Inn, Vinsetta Garage)

James Chung

Vancouver Lifestyle, Cool Tech & Travel Adventure. Email: [email protected]

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