Transportation alternatives
4:07 pm
Thu November 29, 2012

Could you eat your car?

Seattleites care about the climate. So much, in fact, that the Ford Motor Company chose to target consumers in the Pacific Northwest with an event celebrating the sustainable elements of its latest car designs.

And it’s not just about the tailpipe emissions. It’s about the interface of food and car parts.         

The event brought together food writers, car critics and tech bloggers, lured in to taste a menu inspired by ingredients in the latest line of Ford's cars' seats. Coconut and soy are the biggest innovations.

The seats and headrests in all 2013 Ford Fusion models are made of soy foam. A new one has the equivalent of about 30,000 soy beans in the seats, the company says; the new foam formulation is derived from soybean oil. 

And one of the new model's storage bins is made of a compound that's based not on petroleum, but instead made out of the scraps leftover from Canadian wheat that’s grown for food.

Coconut fibers, which the company says could be sustainably grown, are being tested in research labs as a possible component in mats for Ford floors and foot wells.

All of these facts helped the new car win the Green Car Journal's 2013 Green Car of the Year award at the LA Auto Show today.

I test drove the model in Seattle and found it a smooth and compelling ride, with powerful, energy-generating breaks and an intriguing computer interface in the dash board that coached me to drive in a style that would result in best fuel efficiency. In its default mode, the display shows vines that reward you with more and more green leaves, the more efficiently you drive. It's not that different from other hybrids and all-electric cars out there, such as the Nissan leaf, which is also using Seattle as a test market.

But given all the hype about the food elements in the Ford car parts, what I was really wondering is - if I bought one...could I eat my car?

“No. You can’t eat the car. But this is the straw that’s the waste product of the wheat process, " says Carrie Majeske, who is in charge of sustainability efforts at Ford, where she has worked for 28 years. "The other part is what will end up in the food that we eat tonight. But we are making the point that we’re using natural, grown things in our cars. And they are a lot of times related to food products.”

Majeske has watched the Michigan Company go through lots of ups and downs. The Seattle banquet featured a soybean soup and a salad of Wheat Berries and Dandelion greens. Yup, you read that right. Russian dandelions are a possible component in ford’s Fusion line. They’d be part of the rubber in cup holders, for example. Majeske told the gathering that they would likely be cultivated in greenhouses overseas. The cars themselves are manufactured in Canada.

Majeske says there's a famous team of women engineers at Ford's Detroit headquarters who have been working hard on all of these issues for years, because they care. They haven’t cracked the code to make the dandelion rubber formula work quite yet. But she says the story is good marketing for the thing that really matters: the carbon footprint of this vehicle.

And at 47 miles per gallon, she says the fusion hybrid has the best gas mileage on the road.

Wednesday night's menu, cooked up by Emily Crawford Dann of The Corson Building,  in Seattle's trendy Georgetown neighborhood, was quite tasty and thoughtfully designed as well.