The Fumes to Fuel program at Ford Rouge Complex strives to make the process of adding color onto cars more environmentally friendly.
Take the Ford Rouge Factory Tour, and a number of sustainable, environmentally conscious manufacturing practices and processes jump out at you right away. You’ll see the Dearborn Truck Plant’s massive living roof and purposeful use of natural light. You can even walk the surrounding outdoor sanctuary where birds nest, flowers bloom and honeybees flourish.
“What really impresses me is Ford’s continued commitment to tackle big issues and figure out new processes and ways of doing things that not only make it better for the product but also address air and water issues,” said Cynthia Jones, general manager of the Ford Rouge Factory Tour. “Ford is pushing the paint industry to make paints better, and it is also pushing to make its own processes better.”
Solvents in the paint used to coat vehicles wind up in the exhaust system, and what’s left is “nasty stuff,” according to David Crompton, a senior environmental engineer at Ford Motor Company. “A lot of countries will not permit the discharge of it into the atmosphere,” he added, “so our early work focused on developing ways of abating those solvents.”
The Fumes to Fuel process, which has been refined over several years, pushes solvent-laden exhaust air through a carbon bed. The carbon removes the solvents from the exhaust, leaving behind clean exhaust that can be safely discharged into the atmosphere. The carbon is then swept with nitrogen, heating it up and removing the solvents. The carbon returns to the absorption stage, and the solvent-laden nitrogen is condensed into a liquid form.
The entire process ends up being more environmentally friendly than producing water-based coatings, because less energy is required and the potentially harmful solvents are abated.
“Some of our competitors chose water-based coatings,” Crompton said. “We believe that solvent-born technology provides the best overall environmental performance because the technology requires less energy consumption, which translates into lower CO2 emissions. It also allows lower facility and operating costs, so there’s a smaller overall footprint.”
Another added benefit, the solvent-born coatings give Ford vehicles a best-in-class finish in terms of durability and chip and scratch resistance.
Did You Know? The Ford Rouge Factory Tour’s Manufacturing Innovation Theater received a 2016 Thea Award for outstanding achievement for a brand experience. The Thea awards program honors creative excellence in theme parks, museums and other attractions, and is considered one of the attraction industry’s greatest honors.
This story originally ran in the June-December 2016 edition of The Henry Ford Magazine.
A hydrogen-fueled Prototype from Colorado’s Wheat Ridge High School charges up Jefferson Avenue at the 2016 Shell Eco-marathon Americas.
The gas mileage in our cars is nothing to sneeze at these days. The average for all new light-duty vehicles sold in the United States is around 25 miles per gallon. Buy a gas/electric hybrid like the Toyota Prius or the Chevrolet Volt and the equivalent mileage jumps to about 60. Go with the all-electric Tesla Model S and you’re looking at an equivalent of almost 90 miles per gallon. Good numbers, but you’d have to multiply them by ten to be taken seriously at the Shell Eco-marathon Americas.
For the second year in a row, Shell brought its super-mileage competition to Detroit. More than 1,000 students on 124 teams from high schools and colleges throughout the Western Hemisphere gathered in the Motor City April 22-24 to compete toward a simple goal: to tease as much mileage out of a gallon of gasoline (or its equivalent) as possible.
Students from Michigan’s Lapeer County Education and Technology Center are fans of The Love Bug, judging by their Urban Concept vehicle. If you’re fan of The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation, then you might recall that the competition was featured in the show. Cars compete in two classes. The Prototypes are stripped-down, highly aerodynamic designs, while the Urban Concept vehicles look a bit more like production cars. Teams may use either internal combustion engines (fueled by gasoline, diesel, natural gas or ethanol) or electric motors (fed by lithium-based batteries or hydrogen fuel cells.) This year’s overall winner was Université Laval of Quebec City with 2,584 miles per gallon. Fellow Canadians from the University of Toronto weren’t far behind with 2,364. California Polytechnic State University rounded out the podium with 1,125. (Complete results are available here.)
How do teams achieve these extraordinary numbers? Streamlined shapes and lightweight materials are big parts of the equation, but the teams also shut off their engines and coast as much as possible along the 0.6-mile course laid out through downtown Detroit. But competing vehicles have to maintain an average speed of at least 15 miles per hour over ten laps, so they can’t rely too heavily on momentum.
Inspection is rigorous. Many teams struggle with the brake test, in which their car’s brakes must hold the vehicle (with driver) perfectly still on a 20-percent grade.
It’s an all-in commitment for the students. Teams began arriving in Detroit on Tuesday, and most of them stayed in tents set up on Cobo Center’s lower level. If they weren’t sleeping or competing on the track, odds are that the students were working on their cars in the paddocks that covered much of Cobo’s main hall. Each vehicle has to pass a rigorous safety and compliance inspection before it’s allowed on the track, so there’s always fine-tuning to be done.
Everybody loves to build a Model T. In addition to the competition, there were many other attractions for the public to enjoy. The Henry Ford was pleased to have a presence in Cobo Center alongside the Michigan Science Center, the MotorCities National Heritage Area, FCA and other organizations. We brought two of our signature experiences – the “Build a Model T” activity and the operating replica of Henry Ford’s Kitchen Sink Engine – along with the replica of the 1896 Quadricycle and the 102.5 mile-per-gallon Edison2 X Prize car. We also brought several auto-related clips from The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation to inspire the teams and event visitors alike.
On Saturday, I was privileged to moderate a panel discussion with students and staff from Maxwell High School of Technology in Lawrenceville, Georgia. The group won the grand prize in Quaker State’s 2015 Best in Class Challenge, in which they had six weeks to turn a plain-vanilla 2003 Chevrolet Impala into a head-turning street machine. The competition, with its tight time and money restrictions, gave the students a new appreciation for teamwork – not unlike the cooperation that is so crucial to Eco-marathon teams.
The Shell Eco-marathon Americas will be back in Detroit in 2017. If you missed the event this year, be sure to get to Cobo Center next time to enjoy one of the most exciting and innovative motor vehicle challenges around.
Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.
Inspired by Thomas Edison, Oliver Kuttner has not only driven his Very Light Car into engineering history, he’s also got one parked at the Henry Ford Museum.
Creating something new is arguably one of the most satisfying achievements in life. As engineers, our careers are littered with accounts where we’ve improved designs, given life to concepts and maybe even built something brand new and impactful.
For Edison2 founder Oliver Kuttner, all of those things have happened and his X-Prize winning Very Light Car (VLC) stands in the Henry Ford Museum’s growing collection of engineering marvels.
But unlike many of the stories about engineering brilliance, Oliver’s isn’t one about a lone genius working in solitude. Instead, his story is more modern – it’s one that revolves around inspiration coupled with collaboration.
Earlier this month, we at The Henry Ford were excited to participate in the Shell Eco-marathon Americas, held in Detroit’s Cobo Center from April 9-12. More than 1,000 high school and college students, representing the United States, Canada, Brazil and Guatemala, competed to determine which of their 113 teams produced the car capable of the best fuel mileage.
Shell, the global energy company, sponsored fuel-mileage competitions as early as 1939, but more recently the Eco-marathon has evolved into three events held annually in Europe, Asia and the Americas. This year marks the first time that the Americas competition took place in the Motor City. Teams may enter cars in one of two classes. Prototype cars strive for maximum fuel efficiency with exotic materials and designs. Urban Concept cars resemble street vehicles complete with lights, signals and working horns. Teams using internal combustion engines may power their vehicles with gasoline, diesel, natural gas or ethanol. Those using electricity can choose between lithium-based batteries or hydrogen fuel cells. Whatever the fuel, the goal is the same: squeeze as much distance out of it as possible.
When high school drafting design instructor Mike Evans discovered Greenpower, the academic electric car competition, he had no idea how far it would take him and his students. In less than three years, the team from Alabama’s Huntsville Center of Technology’s (HCT) went from drafting Solid Edge models for the UK based competition, to becoming the first international high school team, and now starting the competition in America.
“It started with an introduction from Mike Brown who oversees Siemens’ mainstream engineering global academic programs,” said Evans. “We had a long relationship with Siemens so he asked us to reverse engineer the F-24 kit car in Siemens Solid Edge software for Greenpower’s UK CEO Jeremy Way. When Jeremy saw the students’ models he invited us to build a car and enter the race.”
Greenpower started back in 1999 with a dream of supporting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education. Building and racing the electric cars inspires and engages students of all ages to pursue STEM subjects.