Ford focuses on innovation as energy use and emissions tumble

US car manufacturer Ford has unveiled the results of its ongoing sustainability push, with reductions in water and energy use and carbon emissions highlighted in its 17th annual Sustainability Report, which was largely focused on a renewed innovation drive.

Ford revealed that it had hit its 25% reduction target for manufacturing energy use per vehicle which was established in 2010. The company has also managed to reduce carbon emissions – again per vehicle – by more than 26% in that timeframe, just short of the 30% target for 2025.

Having surpassed a 30% water reduction target two years early in 2013, Ford has since established a new incremental goals, originally to reduce water consumption per vehicle by 2% against a 2014 baseline. For 2015, global water use per vehicle produced fell to 3.81 cubic meters from 3.99 in 2014, a reduction of more than 4%.

An ongoing commitment to lowering water consumption has seen Ford earn an “A” grade for water stewardship from global environmental disclosure agency CDP. Ford is the only North American company to earn the accolade for corporate water stewardship.

“Setting goals and working toward stretching targets is our way of embracing the sustainability opportunities and challenges we face as a company and a society,” Ford’s vice president for sustainability, environment and safety engineering Kim Pittel said. “Through human energy, ingenuity and a rigorous scientific approach, Ford is working to be part of the solution.”

The report also revealed that Ford has been complying with CDP warnings over supply chain risks, with the number of supplier sites trained and retained with an understanding of sustainability management climbing from 2,948 in 2014 to 3,156 for 2015.

Innovative investments

Despite Ford’s fuel economy for combined car and truck fleets deteriorating – an extra 0.1 miles per gallon was recorded in 2015, largely due to the purchasing of more vehicles – the company’s new Research & Development (R&D) commitment has seen combined fleet CO2 emissions improve by 10% against a 2009 figure.

Earlier this year, the company added the Ford Smart Mobility LLC subsidiary aimed at investing and creating new mobility services geared around smart technology integration and sharing economy principles through the FordPass customer innovation platform.

In the past 16 months, Ford conducted more than 30 mobility experiments across the globe to gain an understanding of the evolution of customer preference to transport. Several programmes including London’s GoPark predictive parking system and Go Drive, the car-sharing initiative that streamlines parking and commuting in busy locations, were well received.

Ford recently solidified its position as one of the top sellers of plug-in hybrid vehicles by expanding its R&D team and investing $4.5bn into its electric vehicle (EV) portfolio, which will add 13 new EV models and make 40% of all new nameplates electrified by 2030.

The company’s R&D department has also been looking at more innovative ways to create a sustainable vehicle of the future. As well as investing $2.1m on a state-of-the-art facility at the University of Michigan to research new battery technologies, Ford has also produced an innovative recycling technique that could cut manufacturing emissions by 50%.

Ford has also announced plans to mimic the sticky toe pads of geckos to help it boost the recyclability of its car parts, while the company recently set a five year window to introduce new foam and plastic components made from carbon dioxide feedstock.

Matt Mace

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