Ford’s Legacy of Sustainability
As it becomes increasingly clear sustainability is no longer simply nice to do for the environment – instead, a responsible business activity – Ford is highlighting its commitment to a legacy of sustainability and innovation that stretches back to Henry Ford. This photo gallery provides a then-and-now look at how things have changed – and how they haven’t.
Henry Ford established village industries in what were then rural areas of metro Detroit, in part to provide farmers with stable income during cold winters in Michigan and also to take advantage of hydropower. The first village factory opened near downtown Northville in 1920 – taking over a gristmill built in 1825. The plant remained in operation until 1989 and the waterwheel can still be seen.
Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant shows how the company uses renewable energy to make vehicles today. The Wayne, Mich.-based plant features a 500-kilowatt solar photovoltaic panel system integrated with a 750-kw energy storage facility – allowing for storage of 2 million watt-hours of energy, or enough to power 100 average Michigan homes for one year.
Henry Ford had a longstanding friendship and working relationship with Thomas Edison. The two met at a conference and their first conversation dealt with the best method of powering vehicles. Ford would later write that the conversation was crucial in his decision to consider various methods of power – internal combustion engine vs. electric, for example – based on resources available to customers and how vehicles were being used.
Ford Fusion Energi is one of five electrified vehicles offered by Ford Motor Company – and an example of how the company Henry Ford founded remains committed to the idea that there isn’t one best method of power for all vehicles and customers.
Power of Choice
Ford has a long history of working with alternative fuels, starting with alcohol-powered tractors. Between 1932 and 1942, Ford produced a fuel called Benzol. During the Great Depression, Ford created a fuel that was a mixture of byproduct from coke ovens and gasoline and could power automobiles.
Ford delivers power of choice throughout its lineup today, starting with five electrified vehicles (two plug-in hybrids, two hybrids, one all-electric). Other available fuel choices are diesel, biodiesel, CNG/LPG and E85. Research into the use of hydrogen and fuel cells continues.
Henry Ford – shown here talking to longtime collaborator Thomas Edison – worked with E.G. Kingsford (Ford’s brother-in-law, also shown) to develop charcoal briquettes out of what would otherwise be waste wood scraps. The collaboration sparked the origins of the company that would go on to become Kingsford Charcoal.
Collaboration plays a major role in Ford vehicles of today and tomorrow, helping the company meet its own aggressive requirements for use of sustainable materials. One example: The Ford biomaterials research team has been working with forest products leader Weyerhaeuser to investigate the use of a plastic composite material utilizing cellulose fibers from trees in place of fiberglass or mineral reinforcements.
Henry Ford once wrote that he abhorred any waste, especially from wood. At Ford’s Iron Mountain plant – where much of the wood used to build many of the company’s earliest vehicles was processed – precise systems were put in place so that every part of the tree was put to use in some way. Even branches were used as a source of fuel.
Recycling is an even bigger part of Ford today. Across 15 vehicle lines, Ford uses 41 different fabrics containing recycled material – including seat fabric made with yarn containing recycled plastic bottles. The yarn is shown during the manufacturing process here.
Henry Ford always recognized the importance of agriculture to the economy of the United States – and the role it could play in the manufacture of vehicles. By 1940, a soybean processing plant had been added to the company’s massive Rouge complex.
Ford uses soybean-based foam cushions in all North American vehicles – saving approximately 5 million pounds of petroleum annually.