2022 – Ford joins the First Engine Alliance, in an effort to reduce the impact of metal production

Ford recently announced it is joining the First Movers Alliance, an initiative designed to get large companies to adopt clean technologies early so they can get up and running faster.

ÔÇťFord has a proven track record of innovation in automotive sustainability, from being the only US automaker to stand with California in support of stricter auto emissions standards, to being the first automaker to join the Department of Energy’s Better Climate Challenge that joined the We are now targeting the environmental impact of our supply chain by investing in green steel and aluminum,” said Chris Smith, Ford’s chief government officer, as part of the First Movers Alliance. Zero emissions that are good for people and the planet, and good for business.ÔÇŁ

One of the big problems in metal production and processing is that a lot of heat is needed. Harvesting heat from clean electricity is technically feasible, but it would take a lot of electricity to melt enough steel and aluminum to make a range of cars and trucks (Ford appears to be heavily involved in this). But today, most minerals are processed using coal, so continuing to do so (and producing a significant portion of global emissions) is also unacceptable.

So, going forward, the First Movers Alliance intends to work with companies to provide alternative ways to manufacture metal parts. In this case, a possible alternative is to use hydrogen to heat and work metals. This is problematic in its own way because producing hydrogen with clean energy is still energy intensive but is likely to be more viable because hydrogen is easier to store than electricity. Unfortunately, there is also an opportunity for companies to introduce less clean forms of hydrogen (such as those made from fossil fuels) into the process.

Another alternative that Ford mentioned is to use more recycling whenever possible. The company states that it already produces a lot of recycled aluminum in one of its plants and that it takes only 5% more energy to produce recycled aluminum compared to mining and refining the new metal. So this is definitely a good option.

Minerals aren’t the only industry targeted by the First Mover Coalition. The First Mover Coalition also researches aerospace, chemicals, concrete, shipping and trucks, which (along with aluminum and steel) account for 30% of global emissions. Even worse, this share could rise to 50% if left unchecked in the coming decades. By focusing on that and putting some serious forces (from companies like Ford) behind the change effort, there’s definitely potential for a big impact.

For some of these areas, new technologies need to be developed and existing technologies greatly expanded. This will be a big challenge every time and will cost a lot in the beginning, but once these improved technologies become mainstream, prices will come down and we will all be better off. It’s good that Ford is working together to improve industrial technologies so we can make this happen.

Featured image of Ford.



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