Today in History – January 13, 1942 - Henry Ford patents a plastic automobile.
The plastic car Ford patented used soy-based plastics and was 25% to 33% lighter than conventional cars of his day. Ford’s dream was to use agricultural-based plastics to provide another market for farmers to sell their crops.
Sustainability in design is beginning to make a comeback as manufacturers are using recycled products in car interiors. However in today’s oil-conscious world, car manufacturers are focusing most heavily on hybrid vehicles and fuel diversity. A variety of new cars are equipped with engines that are designed to run on both traditional gasoline and an ethanol blend. And although many more plastics and composites are being used in cars, they are not of the type that Ford envisioned. A recent article in Business Week (“Lighter Cars Can Help the U.S. Kick Oil”) points out that vehicle weight has only risen over recent decades. A significant decrease in weight, like the one that Ford initially achieved, could be just as beneficial to fuel economy.
For more information, see the Engineering Pathway’s related resourcesplastics and their applications. Or visit the Materials Engineering Educationor the Mechanical Engineering Education community sites.