Carmakers' pursuit of fuel efficiency and sustainability is moving to auto interiors.
Ford said today that its upcoming Escape SUV will sport door bolsters made of kenaf, a flowering tropical plant. The company estimates using a plant-based material will offset 300,000 pounds of oil-based resins this year.
The door bolsters will be 25 percent lighter and so help improve fuel efficiency as well. They will be a 50-50 mix of kenaf and polypropylene and be made by Indiana-based supplier International Automotive Components.
Kenaf plants grow long stems like bamboo. The fiber can be processed into different materials, such as rope or paper.
Ford is using different types of materials, including soy gaskets and seals and seat covers made of recycled plastic as part of its sustainability efforts. The company said 85 percent of the Escape due this spring will be recyclable.