MONTREAL—Finding new, sustainable materials for automobiles and auto parts is a crucial part of developing breakthrough solutions for future mobility, according to executives from Michelin and Ford Motor Co.
Francois Masson, leader of Michelin's recycling program, and Deborah Mielewski, senior technical leader, materials sustainability at Ford, discussed potential breakthroughs in sustainable materials at Movin'On, the Michelin-sponsored conference on advanced mobility technology held in Montreal May 30-June 1.
All auto and tire makers have an enormous stake in sustainable mobility, and societal macrotrends demonstrate that, according to Masson.
"Demographics show that we will have 2 billion to 3 billion new consumers in the next decade, and they will have many expectations," he said.
There will be a tremendous increase in demand for raw materials in the automotive sector, but traditional materials such as natural rubber, steel and petroleum feedstocks for synthetic rubber are in finite supply, according to Masson.
"The challenge is to be able to reconcile the outlook for economic development with the need to procure raw materials," he said. "We need to introduce a new product model that is less dependent on primary materials.
"The traditional production model is very linear," Masson said. "You make products, you use them, and you dispose of them. We must reconsider that model."
The problem with the linear manufacturing model is that it assumes raw materials are cheap and plentiful, according to Masson. But it is increasingly obvious that they can and will be depleted, he said.
"The goal is to discover how to increase the uptake of sustainable materials," he said. "In the design of new mobility products, we need a more sustainable, circular economic model with shorter-loop recycling."
Ford always has been in the vanguard of researching sustainable materials, beginning with Henry Ford himself, according to Mielewski.
"Henry Ford believed that agriculture and industry should work together in the development of plant-based materials," she said. "Once a great idea, always a great idea."
Ford was famous for using soybeans to make car parts, as well as agricultural byproducts such as wheat straw to make steering wheels, according to Mielewski.