By on December 4, 2019

Always the innovator in creating car parts out of plants that aren’t trees, Ford Motor Company plans to burnish its green cred with a new building material: a composite created partly from dried coffee bean husks.

Following the automaker’s soybean experiments of the early 1940s, Ford adopted soybean-based foam for its seat cushions back in 2008. Now, coffee chaff will help add strength and lower energy use for the manufacture of headlight housings and other components. Its supplier partner on this project? McDonalds.

“The companies found that chaff can be converted into a durable material to reinforce certain vehicle parts. By heating the chaff to high temperatures under low oxygen, mixing it with plastic and other additives and turning it into pellets, the material can be formed into various shapes,” the automaker said in a statement Wednesday.

The process of roasting coffee separates the skin from the bean, after which it is discarded. Millions of pounds of the stuff then sits around, being of no use to anyone. McDonalds — which brews a far better cup of coffee than Tim Horton’s, by the way, and how about that sausage-and-egg McMuffin? Damn! — now expects to funnel much of its coffee waste to Ford.

“Like McDonald’s, Ford is committed to minimizing waste and we’re always looking for innovative ways to further that goal,” said Ian Olson, Mickey D’s senior director of global sustainability. “By finding a way to use coffee chaff as a resource, we are elevating how companies together can increase participation in the closed-loop economy.”

Already, such headlamp housings are going into the doomed Lincoln Continental, but their use will proliferate throughout the brand. Ford’s other partners on this effort are Varroc Lighting Systems, which supplies the headlamps, and Competitive Green Technologies, which processes the coffee chaff.

[Image: Ford]

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29 Comments on “Already Crunchy Ford Goes Even More Vegan...”


  • avatar
    FerrariLaFerrariFace

    “which brews a far better cup of coffee than Tim Horton’s, by the way,”

    Them’s fightin’ words, mister.

    Truth be told, McD’s is pretty darn good. But I like to drink my coffee immediately after purchase and not wait 45 minutes until it cools to the point where it won’t cause third degree burns on my tongue. So Timmy’s it is.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Here in the United States McDonald’s>Duncan>Tim Horton’s

      However Horton’s coffee gets better the closer one gets to the Canada Border.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        Tim Horton’s is all over the place in the Detroit area. Also, Labatt might as well be the official state beer.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          I drink my coffee black, period. That will color my assertions one way or another for many of you.

          I miss drinking Labatt’s from my 2 years living in Detroit.

      • 0 avatar
        FerrariLaFerrariFace

        @Dan: I’m a US citizen living well south of the border with America’s Hat. And I still prefer Timmy’s over the other two. That’s the great thing about ‘Merica: the freedom to ingest our caffeine however we choose. We may not all agree that Starbucks is crap (it is), but I will defend to the death your right to drink it. I think George Washington said that right before he threw his tea in the Boston Harbor and headed straight to the nearest Dunkin.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          Starbucks is crap.

          Here in Gallup it’s a great place to go during the holidays to people watch. Seeing all the former residents who fled to the coastal cities returning to be totally uncomfortable with culture they grew up in.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Starbucks has awful coffee, from everything I’ve ever been told by anyone who likes coffee.

            But as a non-coffee drinker, I’m a fan.

            For me at least, they’ve found the formula for just the right amount of background noise for me to work productively. And their Wi-Fi is fast and much more reliable than what’s in most indy shops. When I’m on vacation but have to work (something that happens often to any lawyer), I can just go to a local Starbucks, buy a cup of tea and a snack every few hours, and work productively all day if I need to.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Starbucks is crap? Heresy, I say!

            (Slowly sips on Skinny Cinnamon Dolce…)

        • 0 avatar
          RHD

          And if you have a McMustang, you can get a caffeine boost by just licking around the headlights.

          All kidding aside, this is a good thing. We produce way, way too much garbage, and mine the hell out of the earth just to produce useless crap that gets chucked into the landfill. (What a waste of time, spending our lives moving stuff from one hole in the ground to another!)

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      I saw a billboard advertising Tim Horton’s coffee the other day, and this is in the DFW area. I haven’t noticed it in the stores, but I haven’t been looking for it either.

  • avatar
    Big Smoke

    A whole new meaning to …
    Cars & Coffee, meets.
    McCars & McCoffee?

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Cool idea. I hope it succeeds.

  • avatar
    EGSE

    Makes economic sense for McD; disposing of millions of pounds of waste isn’t free and they get to burnish their reputation. I wonder where it historically goes…waste to energy (incineration), landfills (we’re running out of space), trenching into farm fields (where sewage sludge is disposed of in my area). I’m surprised that information isn’t in a press release.

    Win/win IMO.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    As Dave Barry would say, we are not making this up.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Something else to attract even more mice to cars? What could go wrong?

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      My thoughts exactly.

      • 0 avatar
        dukeisduke

        Especially caffeine-addicted mice – the worst kind.

        Ford carried on a lot of experimentation into soybean plastic in the late ’30s, and even built a prototype car with a soybean fiber-phenolic resin body (although the composition of the body material has been under some dispute), first shown in 1941.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    If “100% Arabica” doesn’t make it into Ford’s marketing materials, they are missing a golden opportunity.

    [When the headlights yellow after several years, the new term will be “medium roast” headlamps – whether or not the lenses use this material – lol.]

  • avatar
    EGSE

    Since the great majority of coffee beans are imported, the domestic content of “domestic” cars went down again. Or maybe they use Kona from Hawaii, picked by Americans for Americans. Will “fair-trade organic headlights” become a thing?

  • avatar
    ToddAtlasF1

    And the mice rejoiced.

  • avatar
    conundrum

    Tims, McCafe, dreadnought Starbucks and the thin gruel of Duncan’s are all crap coffee. They’re the CUVs of the coffee business. Anonymous. What the unadventurous buy. Second Cup is the best of the mass market coffee in Canada

    People are so incurious, they don’t even seek out better coffee. They just swill whatever’s nearest. Hell, in my city there’s a roaster who turns out truly superior beans, and brews up a couple of his more popular lines for takeout. Been at it for 50 years. Travels the world himself to get the beans he wants. The end difference isn’t subtle but most locals claim to have never even heard of the place. I guess that’s why people buy Nissans and other no-hope vehicles like most Subarus these days – no imagination, no curiosity, just follow the dispirited crowd. And never, ever, try anything else or something new. It might rattle their cages.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      Or maybe they have meaningful lives that don’t revolve around minutiae.

    • 0 avatar
      ToolGuy

      I don’t pretend to have a deeply meaningful life, but I do enjoy a good cup of coffee. You can make a surprisingly good cup of coffee at home these days without a huge investment in time or equipment.

      Travel-related observation: Whether you like Starbucks or hate them, they have altered the general level of public consciousness around coffee – and coincidentally or not, many gas station/convenience store chains have upped their coffee game significantly in recent years. One of the things I enjoy on road trips is trying coffee from ‘chains’ which aren’t in my home state.

  • avatar
    ajla

    “The end difference isn’t subtle but most locals claim to have never even heard of the place.”

    So what is the name of this establishment?

  • avatar
    TimK

    Pack rats everywhere are clicking their teeth and salivating — woo hoo! Elon Musk’s decision to make his new truck body out of 301 SST sounds more reasonable all the time.

  • avatar
    TMA1

    Once the Sun burns out, this planet is doomed! You’re just making sure we spend our last days using inferior products.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    The mice will love this with more food like items going into raw materials this is like a smorgasbord of feeding on electric wiring and getting a caffeine fix gnawing on the headlight bezels.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Add soybean based body parts and this will solve much of the problem of recycling vehicles with rats and mice feeding on them.

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