How Sustainable Are Ford Cars? A Life-Cycle Analysis
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Hey fellow impactful ninja ?
You may have noticed that Impactful Ninja is all about providing helpful information to make a positive impact on the world and society. And that we love to link back to where we found all the information for each of our posts.
Most of these links are informational-based for you to check out their primary sources with one click.
But some of these links are so-called "affiliate links" to products that we recommend.
First and foremost, because we believe that they add value to you. For example, when we wrote a post about the environmental impact of long showers, we came across an EPA recommendation to use WaterSense showerheads. So we linked to where you can find them. Or, for many of our posts, we also link to our favorite books on that topic so that you can get a much more holistic overview than one single blog post could provide.
And when there is an affiliate program for these products, we sign up for it. For example, as Amazon Associates, we earn from qualifying purchases.
First, and most importantly, we still only recommend products that we believe add value for you.
When you buy something through one of our affiliate links, we may earn a small commission - but at no additional costs to you.
And when you buy something through a link that is not an affiliate link, we won’t receive any commission but we’ll still be happy to have helped you.
When we find products that we believe add value to you and the seller has an affiliate program, we sign up for it.
When you buy something through one of our affiliate links, we may earn a small commission (at no extra costs to you).
And at this point in time, all money is reinvested in sharing the most helpful content with you. This includes all operating costs for running this site and the content creation itself.
You may have noticed by the way Impactful Ninja is operated that money is not the driving factor behind it. It is a passion project of mine and I love to share helpful information with you to make a positive impact on the world and society. However, it's a project in that I invest a lot of time and also quite some money.
Eventually, my dream is to one day turn this passion project into my full-time job and provide even more helpful information. But that's still a long time to go.
Ford is one of the most well-known American car brands in the world. Historically, they are most famous for Henry Ford’s innovation of the assembly line to build cars on mass. And today, they are still known for the large volume of cars they produce every year. While their traditional car image is one of diesel work trucks and V8 muscle cars, Ford also produces several fully electric and hybrid-electric vehicles. So we had to ask: How sustainable are Ford cars?
Ford cars are generally not very sustainable. Their manufacturing operations may pose serious hazards to the environment, and their actions have not been sufficient in combating climate change. However, Ford has introduced a limited number of electric vehicles and extensive aluminum recycling.
In this article, we’ll walk you through the life-cycle of Ford cars through material sourcing, manufacturing, their consumer usage, and their end-of-life. Then, we’ll evaluate their sustainability, and how this contrasts with their public messaging. Finally, we’ll show you tips for evaluating the sustainability of any car you may be thinking about buying, and how to make your current car more efficient.
Here’s How We Assessed the Sustainability of Ford Cars
In the last couple of decades, Ford has introduced smaller, more economical cars, and has even developed fully-electric cars that compete against the biggest names in the electric vehicles (EVs) industry. While these efforts are a step forward for the future, we know that the sustainability of a car is dependent on more than just tailpipe emissions, as many different stages of a car’s life can have a variety of negative effects on the planet.
“Sustainable: The ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level | Avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance”Oxford Dictionary
It is vital for automakers like Ford to take up sustainable practices if we are to stand any chance of avoiding the worst potential effects of climate change and environmental damage. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the form of CO2 might be the most prominent polluters. But it is also important to consider the resources to produce Ford cars, their manufacturing, and their transportation networks and, finally, how our usage of Ford cars impacts our environment and local communities.
To understand the overall sustainability of Ford cars, we must assess their life-cycle and each stage’s sustainability. This life-cycle assessment (LCA) is a method to evaluate the environmental impacts of products and materials. Over the years, companies have strategically used LCA to research and create more sustainable products. So, let’s have a look at the LCA of Ford cars!
|The life-cycle stages of Ford cars||Each stage’s sustainability|
|Sourcing of materials and components for Ford cars||The materials and components in Ford cars are generally more sustainable than the industry average due to their closed-loop recycling and zero-landfill-waste programs for their aluminum and plastics. However, Ford’s limited supplier program means that they maintain high transport emissions to supply their international operations, and some vital materials for current EV models are not sustainable despite Ford’s best efforts.|
|Manufacturing of Ford cars||The manufacturing of Ford cars is only sustainable regarding their approach to waste management and aluminum recycling. In the US, the manufacture of Ford cars is powered by non-renewable energy and depends on traditional shipping methods to supply foreign markets. Recently, Ford’s burgeoning Chinese factories have been linked to exploitative labor conditions.|
|Transporting of Ford cars||The transportation of Ford cars to their point of sale is not very sustainable. Ford depends on cargo ships and over-the-road trucks to deliver their cars to dealerships, which are both major sources of air pollution. Ford’s usage of railway transport does make them slightly more sustainable than other manufacturers who do not.|
|Usage of Ford cars||The usage of Ford cars is generally not very sustainable. They tend to live shorter than average lives due to both below-average reliability, and above-average depreciation. While some of their cars are more sustainable than others, Ford cars are generally not circular products.|
|End-of-life of Ford cars||The end-of-life for Ford cars has the potential to be very sustainable due to their materials of choice, but their current actions are only somewhat sustainable as they are not recycling and reusing every part of the vehicle.|
As we can see from the LCA chart above, the life-cycle of a Ford car is not a simple process. There are many different materials and factories used that can result in direct and indirect environmental damage when not used responsibly. Below, we’ll dive into each one of these stages in detail to determine how sustainable a Ford car really is.
How Sustainable Is the Sourcing of Materials and Components for Ford Cars
The materials and components in Ford cars are generally more sustainable than the industry average due to their closed-loop recycling and zero-landfill-waste programs for aluminum and plastic. However, Ford’s limited supplier program means that they maintain high transport emissions to supply their international operations, and some vital materials for current EV models are not sustainable despite Ford’s best efforts.
To assess the impact of an auto manufacturer, we need to look at all the parts that go into making a new car. Ford sells cars on every continent minus Antarctica, so any resource they rely on will be under considerable demand. Typically, this will include the metal used for the structure of the car, powertrain, and electrical components, as well as plastics or plant-based materials used for the interior surfaces. We took a look at what Ford specifically is using in their production, and how sustainable each of these materials is.
How Sustainable Are the Materials and Components Used for Ford Cars
Ford cars utilize materials that are more sustainable than the industry standard. Their use of recycled aluminum and plastics helps to greatly reduce their waste and carbon generation; however, Ford’s strategy depends on rare earth metals like cobalt that are not sustainable.
A modern Ford car is roughly 75% metal and 17% plastic. Ford primarily utilizes aluminum in their chassis and engine construction, which differentiates them from some of their competitors. Ford also requires some specialized metals to sustain their ever-growing roster of Electric Vehicle (EV) models. Let’s take a look at how sustainably Ford sources their various materials.
- Aluminum: Aluminum is a very sustainable metal due to its ability to be effectively recycled endlessly, while only using 5% of the energy needed to obtain primary origin metal. Aluminum is also very naturally abundant, and weighs significantly less than steel which contributes to a lower carbon footprint when transported. Ford claims that they have achieved closed-loop recycling for their Aluminum, meaning that they recycle as much as possible from their manufacturing processes.
- Plastics: Plastics are used extensively in modern car design, and Ford is no different. These materials can cause significant damage when they end up in landfills or bodies of water, so it is essential that plastics are recycled to be sustainable. Ford claims 85% recycling of all materials including plastics, but this leaves a large question mark as to how much plastic waste Ford is creating.
- Rare Earth Metals: Known as Rare Earth Metals, these are metals such as cobalt and lithium that are used extensively in the production of Electric Vehicle (EV) batteries. These metals are sometimes sourced from conflict zones and are a scarce resource. Ford sources per the standards of the Responsible Minerals Initiative (RMI) so as to not harm the communities where cobalt is mined.
In short, Ford’s materials are sourced fairly sustainably, but they still maintain a large carbon footprint overall due to the sheer volume of resources used. Their extensive recycling programs for aluminum and plastic components significantly reduce their need for primary materials, but their currently planned EV models will all depend on scarce materials.
Where Are the Materials for Ford Cars Usually Sourced From
Ford materials are usually sourced from North America, where they produce most of their cars. The main exceptions to this include scarce minerals like cobalt, which have to be sourced from Africa, and resources that can be recycled at a manufacturing plant.
Ford’s marketing has always touted that their vehicles are made in America. As it turns out, this is still mostly true even today. Many of Ford’s biggest suppliers are based in North America for their basic material needs. However, new EV designs depend on materials that are only found in a handful of regions. So, where does Ford source their materials from?
- Aluminum: Ford receives the vast majority of their aluminum from two US-based suppliers: Arconic and Novelis. Both of these suppliers mine primary aluminum, as well as conduct recycling operations to produce high volumes. These two suppliers provide 98% of Ford’s aluminum, which all comes from either the US or Canada. However, these materials are then generally sent via cargo ship across the Atlantic to supply Ford’s European facilities.
- Plastics: Ford claims to utilize recycled plastics and plant-based materials that can be sourced locally to a respective factory, but it is unclear how much this accounts for their total usage. Ford does not disclose where their new plastic is produced from, or how much of it is still petroleum-based.
- Rare Earth Metals: Generally speaking, cobalt mining has caused massive human damage in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Ford is a member of the Responsible Minerals Initiative (RMI), which means they conduct due diligence to source their cobalt responsibly with communities in mind. That being said, cobalt and lithium are still both scarce and can cause serious environmental pollution when mined.
In short, Ford sources most of its raw materials in North America. Though they claim that their metals and plastics are recycled when possible, their distribution network still requires traditional, unsustainable cargo ships to send materials abroad. And finally, their future EV plans still revolve around scarce minerals rather than developing more sustainable alternatives.
How Transparent is Ford About the Sustainability of Their Supply Chain
Ford’s supply chain is not completely transparent. Although their environmental reports are fairly exhaustive – including data about their waste production, recycling, GHG emissions, and mineral due diligence – Ford especially lacks information regarding their Chinese suppliers, which pose an acute risk to the environment and the laborers who work there.
To be able to judge how sustainable a company is, we have to have trustworthy information to base our assessment on. Third-party verification can also help to ascertain if a company is self-policing or not. In Ford’s case, their releases are more informative than others.
- Ford’s certified due diligence of their cobalt supply chain is transparent, and they report all their suppliers: Ford’s suppliers are exclusive through their Aligned Business Framework (ABF), and as such, they maintain a smaller group of suppliers with strong relationships. An example is their reliance on only two producers of aluminum for 98% of their production needs. Ford’s RMI certification of their Cobalt suppliers further shows actual due diligence to source this vital material responsibly.
- Ford’s statistics regarding their total waste, total GHG emissions, and recycled material are publicly available: For example, in 2021, Ford sent 16.3 million kilograms of waste to landfills or approximately 1.9% of their total waste. They also reported producing 289 grams of CO2 per mile in their US cars, and 118 grams per kilometer in Europe. While this is transparent, it also shows that they still have a long way to go toward being truly sustainable.
- Ford lacks information regarding their Chinese suppliers: Ford, like several other auto brands, has had exposure to suppliers in China that are known to utilize forced labor. And Ford lacks due diligence information regarding labor conditions for any of their Chinese suppliers. This isn’t to say that Ford is knowingly choosing suppliers who use forced laborers, but the lack of transparency for Chinese suppliers combined with a lack of genuine due diligence means companies like Ford can unknowingly support inhumane conditions.
In short, Ford is lacking transparency when it comes to their Chinese-based suppliers, with many concerning reports of forced labor being used in recent years. Ford’s environmental reports for the rest of their global operations are very transparent with key statistics regarding the environmental impact of their suppliers. Despite this, it does not seem they are fully transparent.
How Sustainable Is the Manufacturing of Ford Cars
The manufacturing of Ford cars is only sustainable regarding their approach to waste management and aluminum recycling. In the US, the manufacture of Ford cars is powered by non-renewable energy and depends on traditional shipping methods to supply foreign markets. Recently, Ford’s burgeoning Chinese factories have been linked to exploitative labor conditions.
During the manufacturing stage, there is a lot of potential for environmental harm locally, and more broadly. High energy usage, if powered through fossil fuels, can emit harmful GHGs, excessive waste generation, and even chemical dumping can all occur when companies try to cut corners. So let’s take a look at how sustainably Ford manufactures their cars.
How Sustainably Are Ford Cars Generally Manufactured
Ford cars are generally manufactured only somewhat sustainably. They have established facilities that send zero waste to landfills, but their North American-based suppliers require them to utilize traditional international shipping methods. Their energy production is also still primarily from non-renewable sources.
Ford maintains a fleet of 64 manufacturing and assembly plants worldwide. Each of these plants is specialized to produce just a couple of different models or parts, which means this complicated web is necessary to maintain Ford’s high output. Unfortunately, more stops along the manufacturing line can result in a larger environmental impact through transport emissions, and Ford’s limited suppliers can create bottlenecks that require them to use unsustainable transport during materials shortages.
- Production of parts: Ford’s parts facilities produce powertrains, chassis parts, and industrial tools that will be sent onward to a final model assembly plant. These plants are somewhat sustainable as 74% of them are considered true zero-waste-to-landfill (ZWTL) sites, and they practice closed-loop recycling for some metal components. A negative mark, however, is that only 32.4% of Ford’s global energy use comes from renewables.
- Parts and production materials distribution: Like many large auto manufacturers, Ford tries to build cars in the countries in which they will be sold. Their interest is cutting costs, but it can also lower transportation emissions. However, Ford still requires significant international transport because the majority of its raw materials come from the US or Canada, even when a car is to be sold in Europe or Asia. This stage is a significant producer of GHG emissions.
- Final vehicle assembly: This is where the different parts all come together to produce a Ford vehicle that’s ready for the consumer. In this stage, energy production can have highly adverse effects if it is not generated through renewable sources. And Ford only generated 32.4% of their global energy use from renewables in 2021. Globally, Ford reports a 90% recycling rate (with 74% of Ford’s manufacturing locations being ZWTL sites) for all waste in 2021, but this still means that 16.3 million kilograms of waste were sent to landfills.
In short, Ford’s manufacturing facilities go further than some brands to reduce their waste, but Ford’s complicated web of distribution means that its carbon footprint is still too large. Their transportation is still dependent on fossil fuels and renewable energy production is also sorely lacking to help avoid the worst effects of climate change.
Where Are Ford Cars Usually Manufactured
Ford cars are typically manufactured in either the US or China. While their US plants have had some complaints over the years that have subsequently been investigated by the US government, Ford’s Chinese plants lack responsible oversight, which makes their impact hard to ascertain.
- Ford’s largest markets are the US and China, and cars made in these markets are sometimes exported to other markets: The majority of Ford’s production is conducted in the US, Mexico, and Canada among 8 plants. The next largest region is China, which contains 6 plants. Cars made in these regions are sometimes exported to other regions like Europe and South America. For example, Ford exported more than 280,000 US-assembled vehicles to other markets in 2021.
- Ford’s American plants operate with government oversight, but still have reports of unethical business practices: Ford’s American plants have generally high standards for worker pay and benefits through negotiations led by American auto unions, but some plants have been accused in the past of both chemical pollution, and abusing workers in cooperation with labor unions. For example, in 2020, there were reports from Ford’s Dearborn, Michigan plant of conditions that enabled an increased spread of COVID-19.
- Ford’s Chinese plants have very little transparency, leading to many concerns: Generally speaking, Chinese-based factories have a notorious reputation as polluters and for using forced labor practices specifically in the automotive industry. These factories usually allow for cheaper production, which can attract greedy companies trying to cut costs due to the lack of regulatory oversight. Ford’s Chinese plants have not had any reported environmental compliance issues, but have been fined by the Chinese government in 2019 for alleged anti-trust law violations. These fines were considered to be politically motivated at the time, which brings the long-term stability of these factories into question.
In short, the majority of Ford cars are built in either the US or China, their two largest markets. While the main concerns in both regions are primarily the way in which employees are treated – including but not limited to overwork, intimidation, and unsafe conditions – the Chinese plants also have serious environmental questions surrounding them due to the lack of oversight.
How Transparent is Ford About the Manufacturing of Their Cars
Ford cars are manufactured only somewhat transparently. Their suppliers are publicly available, and they conduct independently verified due diligence for potential conflict minerals; however, Ford does not release info that would allow us to ascertain the full impact of their manufacturing facilities.
- Ford’s supply-line due diligence is independently reviewed, and their primary suppliers are easily found online: Ford conducts due diligence for all of the potential conflict minerals including tin, tungsten, gold, cobalt, and copper. This is verified through groups such as the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA) and the Responsible Minerals Initiative (RMI). Ford’s suppliers are all members of their Aligned Business Framework (ABF) which is public information and frequently updated.
- Limited information regarding gross material usage or their expansive materials distribution network: Ford’s public sustainability report for 2022 explains where the majority of their GHG emissions come from but lacks actual totals to be able to compare their impact against other companies. This same is true for their claim of a 35% reduction in waste sent to landfills, as we do not know just how much waste is being generated and sent to landfills in total.
In short, Ford’s manufacturing process is only transparent with regard to some of their material sourcing. The sourcing of potential conflict minerals is well documented and independently verified, and Ford’s suppliers are easy to find online. However, Ford lacks gross statistics about their GHG emissions and waste creation, which makes it impossible to know how large Ford’s environmental impact is.
How Sustainable Is the Transportation of Ford Cars to Their Point of Sale
The transportation of Ford cars to their point of sale is not very sustainable. Ford depends on cargo ships and over-the-road trucks to deliver their cars to dealerships, which are both major sources of air pollution. Ford’s usage of railway transport does make them slightly more sustainable than other manufacturers who do not.
The sustainability of the transportation of Ford cars along the supply chain:
- Ford vehicles will be shipped out to their intended markets, typically by rail for domestic transport, and cargo ships for international transport.
- International shipping is typically conducted via cargo ship, which is a major contributor to CO2 pollution. Ford’s use of cargo ships for international transport is not unique to them, but is a practice that produces significant GHG emissions.
- Shipping within North America is typically conducted via railway, which has the potential to be a fairly sustainable method of transport. Railway emissions only accounted for 2% of US GHG emissions in 2019, and can dramatically reduce total GHG output when rail-based options are chosen over less-efficient methods such as trucks or planes.
- Since most of Ford’s materials are sourced in North America, cars built and sold there have a smaller carbon footprint relative to models that must be shipped overseas to their intended market.
The sustainability of the transportation of Ford cars to their point of sale:
- Ford cars are most commonly distributed from assembly plants via cargo ships internationally, via railway for long distances domestically, and by over-the-road car haulers for shorter distances.
- Rail is relatively more sustainable, but diesel-powered car haulers produce significant amounts of nitrogen oxide.
- Diesel trucks are the main method for getting finished Ford vehicles to their final point of sale in all markets. This contributes to significant air pollution including, but not limited to, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen oxide.
In short, the transportation of Ford cars to their point of sale is not very sustainable. Ford’s efforts to utilize railways when possible help to reduce transportation-related emissions, but their dependence on cargo ships for international transport and diesel trucks for domestic transport is wholly unsustainable.
How Sustainable Is the Usage of Ford Cars
The usage of Ford cars is generally not very sustainable. They tend to live shorter than average lives due to both below-average reliability, and above-average depreciation. While some of their cars are more sustainable than others, Ford cars are generally not circular products.
The time a car spends on the road is one of the most impactful stages of its life. Gas-powered cars produce CO2, consume petroleum oil, and can do increased damage if they require frequent repairs. Similarly, when a car loses its value quickly it can end up being neglected, or even scrapped completely. We took a look at how sustainable the life of an average Ford car is.
What Is the Typical Lifespan of Ford Cars
The typical lifespan of a Ford car is shorter than the industry average, as Fords generally have below-average reliability and value retention.
Ford cars are not particularly known for their reliability or solid quality of build. In the past, Ford’s reputation was marred by safety recalls for the Ford Pinto and excessive rusting of older models. Today, Ford’s production methods have advanced considerably, but do their new cars actually last longer?
The longer a car lasts, the longer it avoids joining the thousands of cars that clog our landfills around the world – and the less environmental strain added from producing a new car as a replacement.
- An extended life for a car also means that the owner is less likely to purchase a new car.
- The production and distribution process for making a car can be very damaging, so a higher demand for new vehicles could lead to even more CO2 being released.
- Ford cars have not been shown to be very reliable. For example, in 2022 Ford cars were ranked 18th out of 24 brands in reliability by Consumer Reports.
- An exception to this is the Ford F-150 truck, which is rated as the 2nd most reliable full-size truck in America. Unfortunately, this model is generally not very efficient when it comes to gas mileage.
- Generally speaking, modern Ford cars are less reliable than the industry average, but not the least reliable either.
While it can be beneficial to keep a car on the road for a long time, older cars are typically less efficient and emit relatively more CO2 than newer ones.
- Ford vehicles still in use are typically gas-powered, having launched their first EV in 2011 to little success.
- This means the majority of Ford cars on the road are still gas-powered, with many of the most popular models being powered by gas-guzzling V8 engines (like the F-150 and the Mustang).
- When a vehicle repeatedly costs the owner with repairs, too many may choose to neglect repairs which can increase the emissions from the vehicle, or result in spilling oil or other hazardous chemicals in the soil and water.
- Generally speaking, Ford cars do not have longer-than-average lifespans, but the Fords that do have long lives will likely be inefficient and in disrepair due to higher-than-average repair costs.
In short, Ford cars are less reliable than the industry average and historically have produced cars that are less efficient as well. Higher than average repair costs can lead to early neglect, which results in higher emissions and potential pollution.
How Quickly Do Ford Cars Depreciate in Value
Ford cars depreciate faster than average, and some models lose value at significantly above-average rates. This leads them to live shorter lives, and to be more prone to mechanical neglect due to the expense of repairs.
Depreciation of car prices over time can be an indicator of the expected lifespan of a car, but it is not a perfect indicator.
- Depreciation can be influenced by many factors, including the original price of the car, the make and model, the condition of the car, and market demand.
- Due to the pandemic instigating scarcity in the new car market, most 1-3-year-old cars are holding the vast majority of their residual value as if they were new.
- This has challenged the traditional rule of 15% depreciation per year that a car is on the road.
- And while cars with a lower depreciation rate may indicate a longer lifespan or higher quality, this is not always the case in such a seller’s market.
Data obtained through the iSeeCars.com database shows that Ford cars on average lose their value slightly faster than the industry average.
- Ford does have some models that lose their value very quickly, such as the Ford Escape which lost 39.3% of its value over 3 years, and the Ford Expedition which saw 50.7% depreciation over 5 years.
- Ford cars that depreciate the least include the popular Mustang and F-150 truck, which depreciated 19.4% and 29.9% respectively over 5 years. Unfortunately, neither the Mustang nor the F-150 are very efficient vehicles.
These numbers show that Ford cars generally do not hold their value very well. This has several consequences, the first of which is that owners are less likely to keep up with potential repairs. Once the car has lost too much of its value, the owner is unlikely to pay for a repair that costs a significant portion of the car’s value. Neglecting repairs can increase emissions, and reduce fuel economy!
Furthermore, a plummeting value means that a car will likely find itself at the end of its life sooner which can lead to them being scrapped, and potentially ending up in a landfill. Once a car becomes so worthless that it is difficult to sell, its usage will be significantly limited.
In short, Ford cars depreciate at higher than average rates, which limits the usage of the vehicle and also means that they can become less efficient over time if repairs are neglected. Ford cars are also more prone to unsustainable usage since their models that do hold value better are all gas-powered.
How Circular Are Ford Cars
Ford cars are not very circular. Their recycling efforts help to reduce waste, but most of their cars and production facilities still generate significant GHG emissions. Their efforts to regenerate nature are limited, mostly focused on reducing their water usage.
Circular products are a necessity for a sustainable future, and when it comes to cars the need is even more vital. There are many steps that automakers can take to ensure that they are helping to build a circular economy, but many fall short of their responsibility.
“Circular economy: The circular economy is a systems solution framework that tackles global challenges like climate change, biodiversity loss, waste, and pollution”Ellen MacArthur Foundation
Embracing the principles of the circular economy is a necessary change for industries that pollute as much as the automotive sector.
- eliminate waste and pollution,
- circulate products and materials, and
- regenerate nature.
More specifically, a circular business model in the car industry refers to a system that aims to keep car components and materials in use for as long as possible, reducing waste and the extraction of new raw materials. And the term “circular car” refers to a theoretical vehicle that has maximized materials efficiency.
In practice, this could mean designing cars that can be easily repaired and refurbished, using recycled materials in car production, and implementing practices that promote closed-loop systems, where waste from one process becomes inputs for another. The goal is to create a sustainable and regenerative system for the car industry, rather than the traditional linear model of “take, make, waste.”
Examples of circular business models in the car industry include electric vehicles that can be powered by renewable energy, car sharing and subscription models, and closed-loop supply chains for car parts.
Let’s see next how circular Ford’s business and operating model already is!
- What does Ford do to eliminate waste and pollution? Ford has introduced closed-loop recycling for their aluminum, which is a metal that can be effectively recycled endlessly. Ford has also established 89 Zero Waste-to-Landfill manufacturing facilities worldwide.
- What does Ford do to make their products and materials circular? Ford cars have been made slightly more circular through the usage of plant-based plastics and aluminum, which both have high recycling potential. Ford is also the 2nd largest seller of EV cars in the US, which reduces the impact of tailpipe emissions from Ford vehicles and comparatively reduces their dependency on non-circular fossil fuels.
- What does Ford do that is not circular? Ford cars themselves are not very circular, as they are less reliable on average, and have higher than average repair costs. Ford’s manufacturing facilities still produce significant GHG emissions, as only 34% of their energy comes from renewable sources of electricity, which means their production is also not circular.
- What does Ford do to regenerate nature? Ford has consistently found ways to lower the amount of water they consume to produce their vehicles, dropping absolute water use down 78% since 2000. Aside from these measures, Ford’s Sustainability Reports do not describe any other major programs to help regenerate nature.
In short, Ford cars are not circular products. Although they have made some advances in metal recycling and EV production, their lack of renewable energy sources for production, or large-scale programs that help to regenerate nature means they still have a long way to go.
How Sustainable Is the End-of-Life of Ford Cars
The end-of-life for Ford cars has the potential to be very sustainable due to their materials of choice, but their current actions are only somewhat sustainable as they are not recycling and reusing every part of the vehicle.
The end-of-life (when a car is no longer usable) of a car is critical in determining its overall environmental impact and is a key consideration in the development of circular business models in the car industry. This stage marks the final disposition of a car and its components, either through reuse/repurposing, recycling, or disposal.
Are components of Ford cars made to be reused or repurposed at their car’s end-of-life?
- Ford components are made to be recycled into their raw materials and reused, but Ford does not have detailed plans to recycle intact parts from vehicles.
- Ford does utilize materials that can be efficiently recycled, such as aluminum and plastic.
Are Ford cars made to be recycled at their end-of-life?
- Ford develops aluminum alloys that are designed to be recycled more efficiently, and are used in chassis and engine parts so that they can be recycled
- Ford’s plastics can be recycled, but currently, their end-of-life treatment is not very transparent. Despite purchasing an auto-recycling company in 1999 and a partnership with CarTakeBack.com in the UK, it is unknown how many Ford cars, or even how much material from them, has been recycled.
Do Ford cars largely have to be disposed of at their end-of-life?
- Ford cars generally can be recycled, but like other manufacturers, Ford does not have a plan for recycling all the components in EV batteries
- Ford states 85% of vehicle parts and materials are recycled and reused at their end-of-life, which is in line with the limited amount of material varieties used across their model range.
In short, the end-of-life for Fords cars could be very sustainable but generally is only somewhat sustainable. Ford utilizes specialized materials that can be recycled efficiently and have partnered with end-of-life recyclers, but it is unclear how much of a modern Ford car is truly being recycled.
What Are the Sustainability Efforts and Goals of Ford
In order to effectively decarbonize and build a circular economy, it is important for corporations to set goals that are both obtainable, and effectively tackle the root causes of climate change. Ford has launched many sustainable initiatives over the years, some more effective than others. We took a look at Ford’s past actions, current initiatives, and goals for the future to see if Ford is taking responsibility for the impact of their business.
|Previous sustainability efforts of Ford||Since introducing their first full EV in 2011, Ford has introduced 3 full EV models as of 2023.|
Ford has utilized 12 different plant-based materials in their cars since 2000.
Ford purchased an automotive recycling company in 1999 to allow them to begin responsibly recycling their cars at their end-of-life.
|Current sustainability efforts of Ford||Ford has introduced renewable energy production for 32% of their global power consumption as of 2022.|
Ford claims a recycling rate of 85% for all vehicle parts and materials, with 74% of manufacturing sites being deemed zero waste to landfill.
Ford is currently the 2nd leading brand for EV sales in the US.
|Future sustainability goals of Ford||Ford intends to be completely carbon neutral no later than 2050.|
Ford plans to continue increasing their EV production capacity, expecting annual production of EV models to surpass 2 million by 2026, and for EVs to make up 50% of total sales by 2030.
Ford plans to use 100% carbon-free electricity production by 2035.
What Are Ford’s Previous Sustainability Efforts
Ford is not new to making headlines for their seemingly sustainable activities. Ford made proof of concepts for fully-electric cars and fully plant-based materials as far back s the 1990s. We took at some of their older claims to see if Ford actually backed them up with action.
- Since introducing their first full EV in 2011, Ford has introduced 3 full EV models as of 2023.
- Since 2000, Ford has utilized 12 different plant-based materials in their cars.
- Ford purchased an automotive recycling company in 1999 to allow them to begin responsibly recycling their cars at their end-of-life.
Ford began producing electric and hybrid-electric vehicles earlier than some manufacturers, but to date, the number of EVs (only 3) in their lineup is paltry compared to their 18 gas-powered offerings. Ford’s development of plant-based plastics is a more sustainable option than traditional petroleum-based plastic, but Ford still uses an undisclosed amount of this dirtier plastic. Finally, Ford’s acquisition of an automotive recycling company in 1999 does not seem to have borne any fruit, as no expansion of their operations has been reported on since.
What Are Ford’s Current Sustainability Efforts
Ford has pivoted their image to reflect a more sustainable future built around EV models and reducing their carbon emissions. This is currently reflected in a limited number of their actions that generally speaking could go further.
- Ford has introduced renewable energy production for 32% of their global power consumption as of 2022.
- Ford claims a recycling rate of 85% for all vehicle parts and materials, with 74% of manufacturing sites being deemed zero waste to landfill.
- Ford is currently the 2nd leading brand for EV sales in the US.
Ford’s energy generation is a major way in that Ford is currently unsustainable. The vast majority of their energy comes from non-renewable sources, which creates large amounts of CO2 pollution. Ford has made their vehicles somewhat more sustainable by introducing more EV models and recycling more of their parts and materials. However, to combat climate change Ford will need to greatly increase both the number of EV cars on the road and decrease the pollution created by the rest of their manufacturing process.
What Are Ford’s Future Sustainability Goals
It is much easier for an auto-maker to make lofty goals about the future, but it is still important that they set long-term goals to achieve a zero-carbon future. Some of Ford’s goals work towards zero-carbon, but they may come too slowly to make a difference.
- Ford intends to be completely carbon neutral no later than 2050.
- Ford plans to continue increasing their EV production capacity, expecting annual production of EV models to surpass 2 million by 2026, and for EVs to make up 50% of total sales by 2030.
- Ford plans to use 100% carbon-free electricity production by 2035.
Ford’s key long-term goal of carbon neutrality by 2050 is the same as some other manufacturers, and is similarly not soon enough to offset the prevent climate change’s worst effects. Their plan for 100% carbon-free electricity, however, is more in line with keeping global warming below 1.5°C. Ford’s continued investment in EV models is an effective strategy, but their goal of 2 million EVs is greater than their 2022 US sales. Ford would not only need aggressive electrification of their model lineup but an increase in sales as well for them to have a chance of achieving this goal.
How Aligned Are the Sustainability Marketing Messages of Ford With the Sustainability of Their Cars
Ford’s marketing messages are not aligned with the sustainability of their cars. Ford’s EV production goals are unlikely given their current production, some of their suppliers have been linked to forced labor in China, and Ford has supported lobbying efforts that sought to loosen emissions regulations.
As we’ve learned during our life-cycle analysis, Ford has spent considerable time and resources preparing public disclosures highlighting their sustainable actions. However, we’ve also learned that some of their claims may stretch the truth. Let’s take a look at how some of Ford’s sustainability claims stack up against their actions.
“Greenwashing: behavior or activities that make people believe that a company is doing more to protect the environment than it really is”Cambridge Dictionary
Ford claims to be an industry leader in EV technology, and subsequently has promised to deliver millions of new EVs in the coming years. Specifically, Ford claims their annual production of EVs will surpass 2 million by 2026. This is hard to believe, however, since Ford is currently on track to only produce 600,000 models annually, and even a 100% conversion of Ford’s total US sales to EV sales would still be less than 2 million units. Unless Ford were to discontinue their gas-powered line-up entirely, this goal will likely not be achieved.
Another issue that Ford claims to be taking initiative on is ensuring that human rights are respected by all of their suppliers. Ford cites their due diligence work with sourcing cobalt as an example of how seriously they take human rights concerns. However, reports have shown many manufacturers, Ford included, have sourced parts from manufacturing facilities in China that have been linked with extensive forced labor practices. The report concludes that auto manufacturers like Ford are not effectively tracing their materials back to their origin as they claim to be doing, and in doing so are supporting a system that abuses minority workers.
Finally, Ford has made claims that they are seeking to exceed governmental regulations to decarbonize their operations as quickly as possible. However, Ford’s actions in the late 2010s seem counter to that stance. As a member of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation (AAI), Ford invested in lobbying efforts during the Trump administration to loosen emissions rules. Ford has since shifted to accept stricter regulations from the Biden administration, but remains a member of the AAI. This creates concern that under a similarly lenient administration, Ford may take part in loosening environmental regulations once again.
|Sustainability marketing messages of Ford||Sustainability of Ford cars|
|“[Ford’s] annual production of EV models to surpass 2 million by 2026”||This goal does neither seem to be realistic nor does it show the full picture, as Ford’s EV sales in 2022 only made up 3.2% (179,279 units) of their 1.8 million total unit sales.|
|Ford is committed to ensuring their suppliers and partners respect human rights||Recent reports linking Ford, among others, to Chinese manufacturing facilities that have allegedly utilized forced labor seem to show that Ford still does not conduct enough due diligence.|
|“[Ford will] build supply base capacity that exceeds minimum regulatory compliance requirements”||Ford’s claims that they will exceed regulatory environmental requirements do not align with their lobbying efforts during the Trump administration to roll back emissions standards.|
In short, Ford’s sustainability messaging cannot be considered completely aligned with the truth of their operations. Ford’s goals for EV cars do not seem possible based on their current progress, and questions have been raised about exploitative labor unknowingly being used through some of Ford’s suppliers. Furthermore, Ford has taken part in lobbying efforts to roll back emissions regulations. We are forced to conclude that Ford’s claims are not fully accurate or trustworthy.
Why Is It Important to Buy More Sustainable Cars
Sustainable cars have many advantages, along with reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. For example, full EVs produce no tailpipe emissions and are better for both the environment and your health. But did you know that EV cars can even save you money compared to the ownership costs of gas-powered cars?
Let’s have a look at the environmental, economic, and public health benefits of more sustainable cars next!
What Are the Environmental Benefits of More Sustainable Cars
Driving a more sustainable car is an important step toward reducing your impact on the environment and preserving natural resources for future generations. And it is especially crucial in reducing transporting-related emissions.
The average passenger car generates 4.6 metric tons of CO2 a year, with many generating much more than that. Along with GHGs, the exhaust of dirty cars can release large amounts of carbon monoxide and methane as well. All of these accelerate global warming, and can even lead to rain acidification.
In total, transportation – personal, commercial, and otherwise – accounts for around one-fifth of global CO2 emissions.
- No tailpipe emissions: Tailpipe emissions from cars, trucks, and other road vehicles account for 75% of all global CO2 emissions from transport, driving a sustainable car – especially an EV with no tailpipe emissions – greatly reduces overall mobility-related CO2 emissions. Truly sustainable cars also eliminate the additional emissions created, for example during both the production and distribution of the electricity used to fuel EVs.
- Lower total life-cycle emissions: The Circular Cars Initiative, launched in 2020 at the World Economic Forum in Davos, aims to accelerate the transformation of circular manufacturing and business models within the automotive and mobility industry and to eliminate or minimize total life-cycle emissions with a special emphasis on manufacturing emissions.
- Reduced resource consumption and waste generation: A sustainable car is ideally also fully circular, which means that, next to the reduced life-cycle emissions, it has been designed to be reused, repaired, and recycled. This reduces the need for raw materials and results in a more efficient use of resources. Circular cars also reduce waste by keeping materials in use for as long as possible, which helps to reduce the amount of waste generated.
- Increased efficiency: If you aren’t able to afford the step into a new EV or hybrid car yet, make sure you’re keeping your gas-powered car well maintained. Because a well-maintained car runs at a higher efficiency – which is good for both the environment and your wallet. And especially fix any broken emissions equipment like catalytic converters so that you aren’t polluting more than you realize!
In short, sustainable cars benefit the environment by emitting significantly less CO2 than traditional gas-powered cars, with some electric vehicles emitting no tailpipe emissions at all. Ideally, sustainable cars are fully circular, produced with parts that can be reused rather than discarded, minimizing total life-cycle emissions and waste generated.
What Are the Economic Benefits of More Sustainable Cars
Many popular electric cars on the market have a high price tag, and it has led some people to believe that owning a sustainable car is not a cost-effective option. The truth is, there are many factors that reduce the cost of ownership over the lifetime of the vehicle!
- Lower fuel costs: For starters, you’ll save money by not having to fill up at the gas station every week! Fueling an electric car for an entire month is estimated to cost less than $60. Depending on the fluctuating price of gasoline, you could spend more than twice that in a month on gasoline.
- Reduced maintenance costs: You also won’t have to worry about keeping your oil tank filled, as electric cars don’t use petroleum or synthetic motor oil like a traditional internal combustion engine (ICE).
- Higher reliability: EVs also lack other traditional failure points like timing belts or multi-speed gearboxes.
- Government subsidies: in some countries, the government will pay you to purchase an electric car. The US, several countries in Europe, Australia, and even China all have incentive programs to help cover the cost of a new EV for consumers.
- Job creation: The shift towards sustainable cars is creating new jobs in the manufacturing, installation, and maintenance of electric vehicle charging infrastructure, as well as in the production of batteries and other components. For example, the Economic Policy Institute estimates that the shift to EVs could create over 150,000 jobs in the US alone by 2030.
If you’re not able to afford to replace your gas-powered car at this time, keeping your older car maintained and efficient will also save you money through higher gas mileage, and less frequent repairs. To keep your car operating as intended, get regular oil changes, don’t idle your engine, and make sure your tires are filled to their recommended PSI.
In short, changing to a more sustainable EV can save you money over a traditional gas-powered car – especially over the lifetime of the vehicle. They are cheaper to fuel and maintain, and many countries offer financial incentives to purchase an EV.
What Are the Public Health Benefits of More Sustainable Cars
Driving your car directly affects the air quality around you. All gas-powered cars produce harmful emissions, and many aging cars are prone to higher emissions due to faulty or failed equipment, and outdated engine designs. In addition, examples from Los Angeles to Beijing show the negative effects of smog build-up when it gets out of control.
- Reduced air pollution: Gas-powered cars produce ozone, particulate matter, and other smog-forming emissions. These create harmful air pollution and can increase the risk of developing illnesses like asthma, bronchitis, and even cancer. The only way to eliminate the risks posed by air pollution is to swap to zero-emission vehicles that only release heat or water as exhaust, such as EVs.
- Reduced noise pollution: Sustainable cars, especially EVs, produce less noise compared to traditional gasoline-powered cars. This leads to a reduction in noise pollution, which can have positive effects on mental health and well-being.
In short, driving sustainable cars does not only have a big impact on protecting the planet, but also directly benefits your health and that of the people around you. Making the change to a sustainable, zero-emissions car reduces air pollution and helps everyone around you to breathe easier and healthier. And the reduced noise pollution from EVs has positive effects on your mental health and well-being.
All in all, our life-cycle analysis of Ford cars shows that although many of the largest auto manufacturers are still increasing profits at the expense of the planet, the potential does exist for responsible car use in the future.
Ford’s advancements in aluminum recycling can be applied to other industries, and a more complete commitment to EVs and clean electricity could help develop the affordable technology needed to create a sustainable future. However, the only way to get there will be through continued oversight both by governments and by consumers to insure that large companies like Ford are truly acting responsibly.
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