Why 2030 Isn’t Going to Be All That Different from 2020

Yes, there will be more electric vehicles. But not all EVs. So internal combustion engines need improvement.

By Gary S. Vasilash

Bosch, Sujit Jain, president, Powertrain Solutions for Passenger Cars, Commercial & Off-Road, and Electric Vehicles at the company’s North American operations, points out, has been advancing—and producing—technologies for the auto industry essentially for as long as there has been an auto industry.

And today isn’t any different.

The company is not only making massive investments for developing and utilizing Industry 4.0 capabilities, but it is investing heavily in the development and production of everything from microprocessors and fuel cells in order to advance the functionalities and performance in the auto industry.

It is committed to the electrification of vehicles, whether this makes the form of hybrids, full battery electrics or fuel cell powered vehicles.

But while Jain says company projections have it that the number of battery electric vehicles in the U.S. will grow from about 2% of the market in 2020 to 30% by 2030, that still leaves 70%, the large percentage of being combustion engines. Yes, they may be hybrids, but there is still gasoline or diesel being burned.

So one of the things that Jain and his colleagues are doing is developing the ways and means to increase the efficiency of those engines, both in terms of performance and emissions reduction.

Some of the things that they are pursing, Jain says on this edition of “Autoline After Hours,” include synthetic fuels, electrically heated catalysts to reduce cold-start emissions, and hydrogen fuel injection (i.e., instead of a hydrogen fuel cell, this would be a combustion engine running on hydrogen).

Jain talks with “Autoline’s” John McElroy, Kelsey Mays of Cars.com, and me on this show.

After Jain’s segment, the three of us talk about a variety of subjects, including former Nikola head Trevor Milton being charged with three counts of criminal fraud related to the company he founded; Tesla’s Q2 financials ($1.14-billion in GAAP net income), the possible consequences of it opening up its charging network to other brands, and the move from upscale-shopping districts for its stores and galleries to lower-end real estate; Magna’s growth and technological breadth; and more.

And you can see it all here.

Recycling Li-Ion Batteries

Sure, the electric vehicle market is growing. But there’s the non-trivial issue of critical materials for the batteries for all of those new cars, trucks and SUVs. . .

By Gary S. Vasilash

Ajay Kochhar, CEO and co-founder of Li-Cycle, points out something that should give everyone a bit of pause when it comes to the burgeoning electric vehicle market: In 2013 there were three electric vehicle battery plants. In 2021 there are 225 existing on the way.

According to the Critical Materials Institute, which is under the U.S. Dept. of Energy, the definition of critical material is: “Any substance used in technology that is subject to supply risks, and for which there are no easy substitutes.”

Things like lithium used in batteries. Or nickel. Or cobalt.

Lots of battery plants. Not a whole lot of readily available—to say nothing of environmentally available (mining is not necessarily conducted in places where there is more concern with getting the stuff out of the ground than how that ground will be after the important stuff is removed in an environmentally benign manner)—critical materials.

Kochhar and his colleague Tim Johnson once worked on the lithium-extraction part of the business, Kochhar says on this edition of “Autoline After Hours.” He also points out that there is a whole lot of work that occurs between the extraction of lithium and it ending up in a battery (here’s something amusing: cylindrical cells are sometimes referred to as “jellyrolls” and the pouch-style batteries as “chocolate bars”).

So Kochhar and Johnson established Li-Cycle, which is dedicated to recycling lithium-ion batteries in a safe manner.

(image: GM)

Kochhar says that they are able to recover approximately 95% of the important materials—like lithium, nickel and cobalt—from the batteries, which can then go back into the production of new batteries.

This past May Ultium Cells LLC, a joint venture between General Motors and LG Energy Solution, announced that it had selected Li-Cycle to recycle up to 100 percent of the material scrap from battery cell manufacturing from its battery-manufacturing facility in Ohio. This will include things like offcuts and scrap, which, Kochhar says, may be comparatively small, but given that the plant in Lordstown will have a capacity of >30 gWh, it is a non-trivial amount.

While Kochhar acknowledges that even within the next 10 years the amount of recycled critical materials from batteries will be limited—perhaps no more than 20%–there is an important need to do this.

Kochhar talks with “Autoline’s” John McElroy, Joann Muller of Axios What’s Next, and me.

And you can see it here.

How the Ford Maverick Was Developed

An up-close look at bringing the clever small truck to the market

By Gary S. Vasilash

The Ford Maverick is what is being called a “white space” vehicle, a small—199.7-inch long—pickup truck with four doors and seating for five. As a point of reference, a Ford Ranger is 210.8 inches long and an F-150 is 231.7 inches long.

It will come standard with a hybrid powertrain that will provide an estimated combined fuel efficiency rating of 37 mpg. And the standard model has a payload capacity of 1,500 pounds and is capable of towing 2,000 pounds.

(Image: Ford)

The starting MSRP for the Maverick is $19,995.

And when asked whether this is some sort of artificially low price, both Chris Mazur, Maverick chief program engineer, and Trevor Scott, marketing manager for the Maverick (and Ranger), unambiguously maintain that this truck is the real deal.

It is, they say “Built Ford Tough.”

That claim is fairly bedrock for the Ford truck lineup so you can be confident that they’re not going to be using it unless there is confidence that they’re going to deliver with this pickup the same way that’s done for the other Ford trucks.

The interesting thing about the Maverick is how it was developed—done in a way unlike has been the case at Ford (as well as other companies that develop, well, anything). And this approach has not only led to the various innovations that are part of the Maverick, but also contributes to the cost-efficiency that the MSRP underscores.

One of the things about the truck is that the team, observing the way that real people use their trucks (not that the people on the team aren’t real people, too) is that many of them hack solutions, whether it is drilling holes in the sidewalls of the box to access electricity or jury-rigging the means to secure a mountain bike in the back. So Mazur says that they thought about that and have made power access simply available will provide CAD files that will allow owners to 3D print tooling for things like attachments.

It is almost that DIY ethos that is characteristic of the product development.

When the development started—pre-COVID—it was decided that there would be a cross-functional team consisting of representatives and participants from all functions that would be necessary to get the job done.

All of the participants wouldn’t just be in the same email group—they would be in the same room. Finance. Manufacturing engineering. Everyone was there. If there was a question to be answered, there was the person—right over there—who probably had the answer.

And they worked to be fast. Their “audacious goal” was to cut 25 months out of the development program.

They made quick models. They plastered the wall with documents and Post-It notes.

When it was time for the upper management reviews, it was there in the room, with the working documents and models and whatnot. Binders and PowerPoints were not on the schedule.

And when COVID hit and the people left the room for their own houses, they were still a team that knew one another, knew who to talk to to get answers, knew who was involved in what aspect of the development.

They were able to get things done.

They didn’t hit the 25-month goal, Mazur admits.

But they took 20 months out of the process.

Remarkable by any measure. And they had a pandemic to contend with.

Realize that as Ford has decided that things like trucks are important to its offering in a way that cars no longer are, the Maverick is a key vehicle in its product lineup.

Mazur and Scott are our special guests on this edition of “Autoline After Hours.”

John McElroy and I are joined by Mike Martinez of Automotive News, who covers Ford.

It is a full hour devoted to the Maverick.

If you have any interest in the truck or in an innovative approach to development, you’ve got to watch this show because you’re not likely to ever get a better sense of how the Maverick has been created.

You can see it all here.

Alfa in America

How the brand will move forward in an important market

By Gary S. Vasilash

Alfa Romeo has been around since June 24, 1910, or for 111 years (as of then).

The brand, especially in Europe, has been widely known for its performance vehicles, performance not like a Dodge Charger Hellcat, but as something that is more at home powering through twists and turns.

There are solid enthusiasts for the brand—the “Alfisti”—with some two million active on Facebook and Instragram, lauding what it stands for and what it produces.

In the U.S., however, the numbers of sales aren’t particularly large. In the bizarre pandemic year of 2020 Alfa sold a total 18,586 vehicles in the U.S., which is just a couple thousand more than the number of Chrysler 300s sold—16,653—but realize that that car is 10 years old.

Still, Alfa’s 2020 U.S. sales were up 2%–and that it the only brand in the Stellantis lineup with a plus sign in front of its sales in 2020 vs. 2019, which is saying something.

For Q1 2021 Alfa is showing considerable strength (relatively speaking, of course), which a gain of 25% compared with Q1 2020, with 4,646 sold.

Giulia Quadrifoglio (Image: Stelllantis)

So if it is a good year, and if there is availability of product, then the brand is probably looking at sales of about 20,000 vehicles, primarily the Stelvio crossover, the Giulia sedan, and a smattering of Alfa 4C sportscars.

Larry Dominique was named senior vice president, Alfa Romeo Brand – North America in March 2021. He’s the guy in charge in the U.S. (as well as Canada and Mexico).

Prior to that he was the president and CEO of PSA in North America. In that role he didn’t bring Peugeots to the streets. But he helped launch Free2Move, a carsharing service that originally launched in Washington, DC, and has expanded to Portland, Oregon.

Dominique had been the president of ALG, the company that is largely responsible for establishing residual values for vehicles. And during that same period—2011 to 2015—he was the executive vice president of OEM, Data and Analytics for TrueCar.

His most notable stint, from 1989 to 2011, was at Nissan. His last position there was as vice president for Product Planning. While at Nissan he met Carlos Tavares, who was with the Renault-Nissan Alliance at the time—and who is now the first CEO of Stellantis.

On this edition of “Autoline After Hours” Dominique spends the hour talking Alfa with “Autoline’s” John McElroy, Joe White of Reuters and me.

He talks about the challenges and opportunities of the brand.

One of the things that he emphasizes—a thing that is highly important not only for vehicle brands but for brands of any type—is that they have a clear understanding of what Alfa is—and what it isn’t.

He explains that his brief is not only to protect what “Alfa” is, but also to grow the brand without sacrificing that identity.

Dominique, who has a degree in engineering, is very methodical in his approach to boosting the brand.

But what is absolutely evident that he, too, has a passion for Alfa Romeo, which an important complement as he helps move it forward.

And you can see the show here.

How the Automotive Supply Base Is Being Transformed

Yes, there is still a need for some of yesterday’s tech in the auto industry today. But there is a greater need for tomorrow’s tech right now. And here’s what suppliers are doing to realize that

By Gary S. Vasilash

When people say that the auto industry is “undergoing the biggest transformation since its very beginnings,” they generally mean that the OEMs are having to vigorously change the product offerings that they are producing, putting plugs where they once had fuel filler ports, putting in drive motors where they once had engines, putting batteries in a place where there were once fuel tanks.

And that is just for the electric vehicle part of the change.

There are a variety of other factors that are driving change in automotive, such as the addition of automated driving capabilities and the need to address heightened expectations on the interiors of vehicles, whether this takes the form of things like comfort or infotainment.

By and large, the changes seem to be challenges for the OEMs.

Which is not entirely the case.

Let’s face it: most of what is assembled into a given vehicle is not produced by the OEM. It comes from suppliers.

So the transformation of the auto industry is having arguably a greater impact on the supply base as not only must it provide OEMs with what they want now, but what they will want in the future.

ZF ProAI automotive-grade supercomputer. (Image: ZF)

On this special edition of “Autoline After Hours” my colleague John McElroy and I talk with Martin Fischer, member of the Board of Management of ZF and president of ZF North America, and Phil Eyler, president and CEO of Gentherm.

ZF is one of the world’s largest automotive suppliers, and while historically—and currently—known for such products as its nine-speed transmissions, the company is undergoing a change as it focuses on domains including autonomous driving, electromobility, integrated safety, motion control, and digitalization and software.

Yes, the company has even developed an automotive supercomputer, the ProAI.

Then there’s Gentherm, which is a specialist in thermal electric devices. In 1996 the company launched its first heated and cooled car seat and in the subsequent years has taken a strong position in that market area.

Yet recently it has invested in technology for thermal management of electric vehicle batteries.

McElroy and I talk with Fischer and Eyler about how their companies are working through—and ahead of—demands—today’s and tomorrow’s—they are addressing as automotive suppliers.

Their approaches range from organizing skunkworks to create new products to taking existing technologies from other market segments, like medical, to apply to automotive applications.

You can see it all here.

Will Buying a Car Change?

Does Gen Z really want to kick tires?

By Gary S. Vasilash

On April 14, 2021, an “Open Letter by Academics in Favor of Direct EV Sales and Service” was published, with the signatories being current or emeritus professors at U.S. universities who “specialize in economics, competition policy, market regulation, industrial organization” and other disciplines.

The primary point:

“We write to argue that any state laws still prohibiting car companies from selling their cars directly to consumers, or opening service centers for those vehicles, be amended to permit direct sales and service of electric vehicles (‘EVs’).”

There is an acknowledgement that this has largely been a case of Tesla hitting up against franchise laws. But they go on to note: “it is equally important to a new crop of American EV start-up companies including Rivian, Lordstown, Lucid, Bollinger, and others about to enter the market. It is also important to the legacy automobile companies like General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler, which should be allowed to compete with the start-ups on a level playing field.”

The academics argue the dealer franchise laws generally go back to the mid-20th century when “car dealers were mostly ‘mom and pop’ sole proprietorships. By contrast, the ‘Big Three’ auto companies were hegemonic firms that faced relatively little domestic or foreign competition.”

So, in effect, to protect the little guy, the franchise laws were put in place. This meant that OEMs couldn’t sell (or service) vehicles directly to the consumer, as it was thought that were they able to, they would be able to undercut the small proprietorships that were selling vehicles.

The letter points out that today there are massive dealership groups responsible for moving a whole lot of vehicles, not one’s next-door neighbor who operates a dealership down the street. They write: “there are at least 15-20 major manufacturer groups selling cars in the U.S.”—which account for, they say, billions of dollars in revenue. You can buy a whole lot of jerseys for the local softball team with that kind of money.

The academics put forth a number of reasons why direct sales should be permitted for EVs (one suspects that were it permissible for EVs it would be difficult to stop this happening for vehicles with other propulsion systems). One of the salient points is: “Traditional dealerships earn low profit margins on new car sales, and make it up on service. EVs have a much smaller service component since they don’t have service needs like oil changes or engine tune-ups. Traditional dealerships therefore lack much of an incentive to sell EVs.”

In addition to arguments like that, there is the simple fact that since the franchise laws were enacted there have been an array of developments that allow people to obtain goods and services that were not even imagined back then.

Like the Internet.

Which facilitates things like Amazon.

Which has created a generation of consumers who want to get things on their schedules.

Which has given rise to things like Carvana.

And on it goes.

Dave Zuchowski is the chief strategy officer at Unite Digital. The mission of Unite Digital is “To drive significant growth for our customers by creating seamless customer experiences that Unite and differentiate a manufacturer and their distribution network.” The “customers” in that sentence are “automotive, powersports, automotive groups and other franchised industries.”

Zuchowski, who is a former president and CEO of Hyundai Motor America and senior vice president of Dealer Operations at Mazda North America, has seen the business from several perspectives.

He thinks that what will be the case going forward will be more of a “hybrid” than a case where in order for someone to get a new vehicle—EV or otherwise—they will have to go to a dealership. Rather, it will be a blend of digital and personal interactions, something more seamless than obstreperous.

On this edition of “Autoline After Hours” Zuchowski provides his insights on not only the changing face of automotive retail, but overall changes that are facing various aspects of the industry. He talks with “Autoline’s” John McElroy, automotive writer Steve Findlay, and me.

And you can see it here.

Why OEMs Build EVs and Other Things You Think You Know That Probably Aren’t the Case

A lively discussion of things from why Americans don’t buy small, cheap cars and why OEMs aren’t likely to get a big revenue stream from sending data to vehicle head-units

By Gary S. Vasilash

Although there is a whole lot of development going on in the electric vehicle (EV) space, as OEMs announce products and plans with what seems to border on giddiness, maybe things aren’t what they seem.

Consider, for one example, the F-150 Lightning reveal. While it might seem as though every person on your street is likely to replace their gasoline-powered F-150 with an electric one as soon as is practical (even though there is a starting MSRP of $40,000, and even though $40,000 is pretty much the average cost of a vehicle, it is still $40,000), even though people are touting the frunk that will allow them to fill it up with ice and beverages and the power outlets that will permit the audio equipment to be plugged in for parties and picnics, when you listen to Eric Noble, founder and president of The Car Lab, what seems to be the case may not be the case.

The F-150 Lightning in what is a natural environment: a work site. (Image: Ford)

That is, Noble points out that largely because of EV batteries—“They are expensive, huge, very heavy and don’t store very much energy”—especially the cost part, OEMs don’t make money on EVs unless these EVs are priced so highly that the cost of the battery can be buried in the MSRP.

Noble argues that because of the zero-emissions mandate of California and the other states that follow California’s lead in emissions regulations, OEMs that want to sell vehicles in those states—including vehicles with a 5.0-liter V8 under the hood—need to sell zero-emissions vehicles: EVs.

What is the number on the sales forecasts that OEMs have for EVs, he rhetorically asks.

Pretty much what the number of EVs required by the ZEV states are for that particular OEM.

However, he points out that there could be some real business for OEMs when it comes to selling to fleets. (“Ford is good at fleets,” Noble says.)

In other words, Teslas and Mustang Mach Es notwithstanding (and I don’t know whether the champagne need be busted out for the Mach E quite yet because in April Ford sold 1,951 Mach Es and 8,000 regular Mustangs), things like the Lightning are likely to be more oriented toward places where they can do the OEM the most good, which very well may be in fleet applications.

Noble talks about this on this edition of “Autoline After Hours.” And many of his arguments are bolstered by observations by Sam Fiorani, vice president of Global Vehicle Forecasting, AutoForecast Solutions.

Also on the table are other subjects of the moment, like over-the-air updates (not likely to be a revenue stream for OEMs because customers don’t want to have a monthly charge to their credit cards, why tech companies won’t become auto companies and vice versa, and a whole lot more.

Per usual, “Autoline’s” John McElroy and I are engaged in the conversation with these guests, and it is one of the livelier discussions you are like to see about the state of the industry—the reality versus the proclamations.

And you can see it here.

A Look at the Class of 2021

Vehicles, not college grads, that is.

By Gary S. Vasilash

There are lots of new vehicles that have been or will be introduced this year. So on this edition of “Autoline After Hours” we dedicate the show to talking about some of them.

And the “we” includes “Autoline’s” John McElroy; Jennifer Newman, editor-in-chief of Cars.com; Gary Witzenburg, president of the North American Car, Truck and Utility of the Year Awards and freelance journalist, and me.

The GMC HUMMER EV Pickup (Image: GMC)

Among the vehicles discussed:

  • Acura MDX: Fourth generation of the utility. Three rows. Edgier styling. Solid suspension. What’s not to like? Apparently the True Touchpad Interface.
  • Buick Envision: A crossover with meticulous attention to detail, inside and out. Does the fact that it is made in China have anything to do with that?
  • Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing and CT4-V Blackwing: A lesser bat-out-of-hell (the 4 has a 472-hp engine) and a full-blown one (the 5 has a 668-hp engine).
  • Chevy Bolt EUV: The second electric vehicle (EV) in the lineup that looks more like an SUV, presumably to appeal to those who can’t get enough of that body style.
  • Ford Bronco: A hard-core off-road vehicle, coming soon to a driveway near you. Get the Sasquatch Package and get extra ground clearance and the approach and departure angles that make climbing rocks not an issue. Get the optional Honda
  • GMC HUMMER EV Pickup. 1,000 hp 11,500 lb-ft of torque. 0 to 60 mph in 3 seconds. 350+ miles of driving range. Fast charge up to 100 miles in 10 minutes. You can’t get a reservation for Edition 1, which is coming out this fall and has an MSRP of $112,595. In the fall of 22 there will be more available with a reduced price: $99,995.
  • Honda Civic Sedan: The 11th generation appears to be what will bring Honda back to being Honda. Which should make sedan enthusiasts every enthusiastic.
  • Hyundai Santa Cruz and Tucson and IONIQ 5: whether it is a little truck-like vehicle, a compact sport ute that comes with two flavors of hybrid as well as a conventional ICE powertrain, or a fully electric crossover, seems that Hyundai is the Overachiever of the Year.
  • Kia Carnival: Don’t call this a “minivan.” Don’t.
  • Nissan Frontier: It has been a while since Nissan has brought out a new version of its pickup (e.g., the one that is out now appeared in. . . 1998), so they’ve clearly had time to get this one right.
  • Rivian R1T: Will this electric pickup from a startup be a success in the market?

And much, much more.

Which you can see right here.

Lidar Explained

You’ve probably heard reference to “lidar.” Here’s where you can get a quick tutorial

By Gary S. Vasilash

Elon Musk once famously said, “Lidar is a fool’s errand.”

And it went downhill from there.

What was he talking about?

A sensor that uses laser beams.

The sensor sends out pulsed light waves from as many as 128 individual lasers (at an eye-safe frequency, so you need not worry about being blinded by a vehicle coming at you with lidar engaged). The waves hit something and bounce back. The time is calculated (send, hit, return). And the information is used to generate a 3D map of the environment. Realize that there is a lot going on here: this beam bouncing is taking place at a rate of millions of times per second.

Using lasers for sensing. (Image: Velodyne Lidar)

The whole purpose of this is to enhance a vehicle’s ability to be able to provide safer driving—for the people within the vehicle as well as others, be they in other vehicles or on foot. And it can also contribute to self-driving vehicles, with the sensor or sensors (there are some lidar devices that have a 360° view so conceivably only one would be needed on the roof of a vehicle to “see” what’s going on; there are some devices that have more limited view, say 120°, so there would be multiples installed) providing input so that the vehicle can perform accordingly.

3D lidar was invented by David Hall in 2005. He had established a company in 1983 to produce audio subwoofers. What was then Velodyne Acoustics has become Velodyne Lidar.

And on this edition of “Autoline After Hours” Mircea Gradu, Velodyne senior vice president of Product and Quality, provides an explanation of lidar—the how, why, where and when of the technology.

One of the things that he really emphasizes in his comments is the importance of lidar when it comes to safety.

He points out, for example, that most vehicle-pedestrian accidents occur after dark. In 2018 76% of pedestrian crash fatalities in the U.S. occurred at night.

Lidar can “see” in the dark. Camera-radar based system don’t have the same level of capabilities. So so far as Velodyne is concerned, any advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) really needs to have lidar sensors as part of its sensing suite. Assuming that the vehicles are going to travel at night.

While Gradu is, not surprisingly, a bit proponent of lidar, he also acknowledges that there needs to be sensor fusion–the use more than just one or two types of sensors. After all, the subject is safety, and who wants to stint?

Gradu talks with Alexa St. John of Automotive News, “Autoline’s” John McElroy and me.

Then during the second half of the show the three of us discuss a number of topics, including the semiconductor shortage and potential solutions, whether companies like GM are putting billions of dollars at risk when they invest heavily in electric vehicles and more.

And you can watch the show right here.

Henry Ford’s Soybean Suit and Other Material Marvels

You’d be surprised at what can be done with what might otherwise seem to be organic waste. Like using it to create car parts

By Gary S. Vasilash

Dr. Deborah Mielewski is a Technical Fellow at the Ford Motor Company.

Two things to know about that: (1) Ford employs about 87,000 people in the United States (more if the people from elsewhere are added, but she works in Dearborn, so we’ll use that number). (2) There are 16 Technical Fellows at Ford.

Yes, she is a rare individual.

She obtained her PhD in Chemical Engineering.

You might be thinking: “Technical Fellow. . .one of 16. . .chemical engineering. . .snooze.”

And were you to be, you’d be wrong.

Mielewski, whose focus is on sustainability, is one of the most enthusiastic and engaging individuals who talks about the environment and recycling and closed-loop processes who isn’t on the Discovery Channel or some outlet like that.

In fact, she probably ought to be.

But for the Earth Day episode of “Autoline After Hours” we have Debbie Mielewski talking about what she and her colleagues are doing in the lab to help make the crossovers, trucks and cars that Ford produces more environmentally sound—and doing so in ways that are not, well, what you might imagine.

One of her earlier undertakings was to develop seat foam using soybean oil. Unbeknownst to her at the time, Henry Ford had been a big proponent in using soybean oil for a number of applications, such as in paint and for body panels.

Ford was once so big on soybean that it built a processing plant on the grounds of the Rouge Complex in Dearborn. (Image: Ford)

The foam that they were creating in the lab took a while to come to a usable form (to say nothing of finding a way to attenuate the rather unpleasant fragrance emitted), but they worked at it and the material debuted on the 2008 Mustang.

Then they’ve had a variety of other atypical materials that they’re using.

She says—at least partially in jest—that while driving home from work one Friday night she thought about having a margarita when she got home. And that she would get in touch with Jose Cuervo on Monday to find out whether there might be some materials they could source (other than tequila, that is).

To obtain the juice that turns into the beverage the heart of the agave plant is roasted, ground and compressed. And then there is a whole lot of plant matter, fibrous, left over. While the Jose Cuervo company uses some of it, as do local artisans, there is still a large quantity left over.

The Ford scientists determined that the fibers are good for plastic reinforcement.

She says she likes coffee. Thinking about that led to the discovery that when coffee beans are roasted, their skin, chaff, comes off. Millions of pounds of the stuff. Ford and McDonald’s are working together to use the chaff as a composite reinforcement material instead of the traditional talc. It is lighter. Better. And is otherwise waste.

Wheat straw. Dandelions. Shredded paper currency. These and a whole lot more are being used and investigated by Mielewski and her team.

She tells a story about telling one of her colleagues to go collect some of the post-processed hemp at a Detroit medical marijuana distributor. (He was a bit reticent. . . .) Another fiber that may have application in automotive component production.

This is a fascinating look at a subject that will become only more important explained by someone who has spent more than 30 years of her career working on it.

Mielewski recalls that early on, when some of her other colleagues from the more traditional product engineering teams looked askance at her presentations, Bill Ford, known for his environmental leadership, had her back. Now the whole approach is becoming more pervasive. And not just on April 22.

“Autoline’s” John McElroy, Christie Truett from Wards Intelligence, Lindsay Brooke of Automotive Engineering and I talk with her.

And you can see it here.