Eco Warriors

Ford partnering with McDonalds to recycle coffee beans, create car parts with them

Soon, you'll be able to drive away from McDonald's with your coffee in a Ford car made from the fast food giant's leftovers.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

I'm lovin' it! Ford Motor Company and McDonald's are teaming up to recycle the millions of pounds of coffee chaff leftover from the fast food giant's food service. The automaker and its suppliers will use the chaff in the creation of various auto parts, including headlamp housings and hood components.

The chaff is the skin of the coffee bean that naturally comes off during the roasting process. The companies found that they could convert the chaff info a durable material that can be used to safely reinforce vehicle parts.

Ford Motor Company McDonald's Ford Motor Company and McDonald's will soon be giving vehicles a caffeine boost by using part of a familiar staple in the morning routine, coffee beans, in vehicle parts such as headlamp housing.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

This isn't the first time that Ford has used recycled materials in their vehicles. A few years ago the company was touting its use of tomato skins and soy in the Ford Mustang.

How does it work? The chaff is heated to high temperatures under low oxygen conditions. Then plastic and other additives are added in turning the product into pellets. Those pellets are then formed into various shapes.

The new components created using the chaff-based compound are 20 percent lighter and require 25 percent less energy during the molding process.

"McDonald's commitment to innovation was impressive to us and matched our own forward-thinking vision and action for sustainability," said Debbie Mielewski, Ford senior technical leader, sustainability and emerging materials research team. "This has been a priority for Ford for over 20 years, and this is an example of jump starting the closed-loop economy, where different industries work together and exchange materials that otherwise would be side or waste products."

McDonald's is expected to direct a significant portion of its coffee chaff in North America to Ford to be incorporated into vehicle parts. Other involved companies include Varroc Lighting Systems, which supplies the headlamps, and Competitive Green Technologies, the processor of the coffee chaff.

"Like McDonald's, Ford is committed to minimizing waste and we're always looking for innovative ways to further that goal," said Ian Olson, senior director, global sustainability, McDonald's. "By finding a way to use coffee chaff as a resource, we are elevating how companies together can increase participation in the closed-loop economy."

They're not stopping there. McDonald's and Ford are continuing to find new ways to collaboratively use waste as a resource, while furthering their respective sustainability goals.

Ford has teamed up with Microsoft to study traffic congestion.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Computers are everywhere. We wear them on our wrists, carry them in our pockets, and rely on them to function in a modern world. As computing evolves, automakers like Ford are using high-level technology to work to solve everyday problems.

The Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker has partnered with Microsoft to simulate the impact thousands of vehicles traveling has on congestion. They're early in to the project, still developing the quantum computing aspects of the project, which will take the problems of today and scale them to predict the problems of tomorrow. Then, the two companies will use the information to dive deeper into possible solutions to those problems.

"Quantum computing has the potential to transform the auto industry and the way we move," said Julie Love, senior director of quantum computing business development, Microsoft. "To do that we need to have a deep understanding of the problems that companies like Ford want to solve, which is why collaborations like these are so important."

When rush hour happens and congestion picks up, it's not uncommon for drivers to use various apps to change their route using traffic apps like Waze. However, these apps often route drivers the same way, creating congestion on side streets. Ideally, new computing would work to balance those routes to allow the least amount of congestion possible on all streets.

Dr. Ken Washington, Chief Technology Officer, Ford Motor Company described the problem and possible solution in a recent post on Medium.

Simply put, it's not feasible to have traditional computers find the optimal solution from a huge number of possible route assignments in a timely manner. That's where quantum computing can help. Essentially, existing digital computers translate information into either a 1 or a 0, otherwise known as a bit. But in a quantum computer, information can be processed by a quantum bit (or a qubit) that can simultaneously exist in two different states before it gets measured. Upon measurement, however, either a 1 or a 0 appears randomly and the probability for each is governed by a set of rules called quantum mechanics.

This ultimately enables a quantum computer to process information with a faster speed. Attempts to simulate some specific features of a quantum computer on non-quantum hardware have led to quantum-inspired technology — powerful algorithms that mimic certain quantum behaviors and run on specialized conventional hardware. That enables organizations to start realizing some benefits before fully-scaled quantum hardware becomes available.

The partnership between Microsoft and Ford started in 2018 to specifically focus on reducing traffic congestion in Seattle, a city undergoing tremendous rapid growth that is confined in its footprint by waterways and mountains.

The collaboration tested numerous scenarios in their efforts to solve Seattle's traffic congestion, with as many as 5,000 vehicles. Each vehicle in the scenario had 10 different route choices. In 20 seconds, computing software weighed each of those suggestions and delivered a route that resulted in a 73 percent improvement in total congestion compared to traditional route suggestion methods. The result was an eight percent drop in the time of the commute.

Ford remains hopeful that future advances in quantum computing will further the company's mission to work to reduce congestion.

Atlas is one of Volkswagen's top-selling models in the U.S. and though it seems like just yesterday that it debuted on the heels of the Dieselgate scandal, the automaker is already preparing to give it a facelift.

Volkswagen has confirmed that the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas will sport a revised grille, head- and taillights, and front and rear bumpers when it arrives on dealer lots later in 2020. It will also have interior upgrades, and new driver-assistance and technology features.

Many of the refreshed elements come straight from the 2020 Atlas Cross Sport's design.

The three sketches that were shown as part of the tease show a more rounded, upright, and smirking grille at the front of the Atlas. Its headlights have a straighter LED light signature. The SUV's lower fascia has changed to show a more aggressive bottom half complete with the hint of a faux skid plate alongside repositioned and smaller fog light housings. Changes at the back aren't nearly as obvious.

2021 Volkswagen Atlas

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

Volkswagen has released these sketches of the forthcoming 2021 Volkswagen Atlas.

VW has said that the changes add three inches to the length of the vehicle.

There aren't a lot of specifics about what potential buyers can expect from the interior upgrades but previous statements from Volkswagen indicate that there will be a new D-shaped steering wheel, an eight-inch infotainment touch screen, and wireless device charging.

Volkswagen will add new driver assistance technology to the model including adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go functionality and low-speed lane centering.

It's likely that the public's first look at the refreshed Atlas will come in February at the Chicago Auto Show.