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Could tomatoes be used to make the cars of the future?

autos Updated: Jun 12, 2014 13:13 IST
Could tomatoes be used to make the cars of the future?

It may sound laughable, but the idea is entirely serious. Ford and Heinz have joined forces to develop a tomato-based composite material for use in the vehicles of the future. The idea is to recycle the byproducts of Heinz Ketchup -- tomato skins, seeds and stems -- to create a sturdy plant-based plastic.

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Researchers at Ford and Heinz are experimenting with tomato fibers to create a bio-based plastic for use in future cars. Photo:AFP

Researchers at Ford are testing the strength of the new material, which could be used in wiring brackets and storage bins in future Ford vehicles.

For the car maker, the development of a viable bio-based material would mean reduced reliance on petroleum-based plastics and a smaller environmental footprint for its vehicles, not to mention lower raw material costs. Heinz, meanwhile, would be able to recycle the skins, seeds and stems from the millions of tons of tomatoes used each year to make its famous Ketchup.

Ford began working with Heinz, Coca-Cola, Nike and Procter & Gamble around two years ago to develop an entirely plant-based plastic, which will eventually be used to make a wide range of products and packaging materials.

The American car manufacturer already uses a number of bio-based materials in its vehicles, including cellulose fiber in console components, rice hulls in electrical cowl brackets, and soy-based foam in seat cushions and head restraints.