Ford's Tests Out Eco-Friendly Paint on U-Haul Vans

Proving that saving the environment isn't all about mating electric motors to gas engines, Ford has been working on reforming the painting process to find ways to lessen our impact on our world. If you don't believe that painting trucks creates an environmental hazard, check out the paint shop at your local transit authority's bus barn. According to Ford, the new system "combines an advanced chemical formulation of high-solids, solvent-borne paint with an innovative three-wet application process." Exactly. Fittingly, Ford is testing this new process out on 200 U-Haul vans, which each use a lot of paint to describe the many tourist attractions of Delaware.

DEARBORN, Mich., Dec. 26, 2007 - Ford Motor Company and U-Haul launched the industry's first fleet of vehicles painted with Ford's environmentally responsible new technology, which reduces greenhouse gases by 15 percent and cuts Ford's production costs.

More than 200 Ford E-Series trucks painted with this new technology were delivered to U-Haul facilities around the country. U-Haul began renting the units, tagged with eco-friendly decals, to customers this week.

The technology combines an advanced chemical formulation of high-solids, solvent-borne paint with an innovative three-wet application process that requires a smaller, less expensive and cleaner paint shop than traditional automotive paint facilities.

In addition to reduced CO2 emissions, the new technology reduces VOC emissions (volatile organic compounds) by about 10 percent. The company estimates it can save approximately $7 per vehicle by cutting the time it takes to paint a vehicle by almost 20 percent as well as reducing the size of the traditional paint shop by nearly 15 percent.

"Painting vehicles has traditionally been one of the auto industry's biggest environmental challenges," said Mary Ellen Rosenberger, paint manager of Ohio Assembly Plant where the new technology was launched. "Ford has found the solution. It's environmentally sound. It's cost-efficient. And it produces beautifully painted vehicles with long-term durability."

Ford's new high-solids, solvent-borne paint formulation produces fewer VOC and CO2 emissions than do water-borne and current solvent-borne paints. Because the new formulation contains more color pigment, it requires less paint to cover a vehicle than water-based paint. Furthermore, the new technology allows for three coats of wet paint to be applied to the vehicle one on top of the other, without drying between coats. This eliminates the prime-coat application and its related processes, which means a smaller, more efficient paint shop.

Furthermore, there's no need for an air-conditioning process or an additional low-temperature oven, which are required in water-borne paint shops to evaporate the water from the paint.

The paint formulation contains new polymers and other additives that prevent running and sagging during the three-wet application process. And Ford's laboratory tests show the high-solids, solvent-borne paint provides better long-term resistance to chips and scratches than does water-borne paint.

Said Dean Cerimeli, U-Haul's director of Truck and Trailer Product: "When it comes to the environment and sustainability, we are happy to partner with Ford in this important field test. We believe this is the most environmentally responsible way to paint vehicles. And we applaud Ford for leading the industry."

In June, Ford won the "Best Technical Prize" for its new paint technology at SURCAR: The International Conference on Automobile Body Finishing in Cannes, France. [Source: Ford]