Advancements in Fuel-Efficient Technologies with Ford Motor Company’s Jon Coleman

August 27, 2014

JOHN SHEGERIAN: Welcome back to Green is Good, and we’re so honored to have with us today Jon Coleman. He’s the Fleet Sustainability and Technology Manager at Ford, and you can check out Ford at Ford.com. Welcome to Green is Good, Jon. JON COLEMAN: Hey, thanks for having me, John. I appreciate it. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Hey, we appreciate you coming on the show today to talk about all things green that’s going on and all things sustainability at the legendary iconic Ford brand. Before we get talking about all those things though, can you share a little bit about the Jon Coleman story leading up to joining Ford and what got you into sustainability to start with as a kid or as a young man? JON COLEMAN: Sure. I’d love to. I was brought up in a family where giving back to the community was something that was expected and something that was part of everyday life and as I went through school and all the way up through grade school and high school and as an exchange student, I saw opportunities everywhere to try and find ways to do more good rather than trying to do less bad, which is the philosophy that I try and work with so instead of trying to get to zero or looking at trying to reduce bad things that people are doing, I was taught that we ought to try and find better ways to do things so that helped shape everything that I’ve done in my life and when I joined Ford over 20 years ago, I looked at it as an opportunity to try and find out what I could do with the automotive industry from the inside so over the course of the last 20 years, I’ve had opportunities to work with Ford and the United Nations working with the Clinton Global Initiative and actually went back to school to get my doctorate looking at how large corporations make sustainable business decisions so with all of that background, it’s enabled me to work now in a capacity where not only am I helping Ford improve sustainability, but as a Fleet Sustainability and Technology Manager, I engage with all of the large fleets that we work with, whether it’s Enterprise Rent-a-Car or UPS or U-Haul, any company that operates a large number of vehicles and try and work with them to improve their sustainability and their environmental footprint as well. JOHN SHEGERIAN: I love that, and I love your statement — doing more good, not doing less bad. I’ve never heard that before and I love it. I think it’s a great way to wake up every morning and to approach business and sustainability and I think that’s fantastic. You know Jon, we’re gonna get to talking about all the great things that are going on at Ford but I also wanted to chat with you a little bit about our great friends over at The Green Festival and your relationship with them. How long has Ford been part of The Green Festival and what was the impetus for you guys to get involved with them? JON COLEMAN: Well, we first engaged with The Green Festival back in 2010, and we really were interested in joining the community that The Green Festival had set up and the people who were operating The Green Festival were this no compromise activist group that were really critical over the last few years in helping Ford close a gap in customer perception about the reality of what we are doing as a company and their perception of Ford Motor Company and the auto industry in general as being dinosaurs, if you will, so working with The Green Festival and helping us engage at the grassroots level with the activist background that The Green Festival had enabled us to help bridge that gap and it gave us the opportunity really to let people know that it’s much more than what we’re doing with electric vehicles and much more than we’re doing with renewables. It really is a holistic approach at Ford Motor Company that has really been well articulated by our Executive Chairman, Bill Ford, the great grandson of Henry Ford, who was made sustainability a key part of Ford’s strategy for operating in the 21st century. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Gotcha, so at The Green Festival, you have a test drive event. Talk a little bit about how does that look and feel and what kind of cars can consumer who come to The Green Festival see and what can they actually sit in and maybe even give a test drive to? JON COLEMAN: We have a wide portfolio of vehicles available at The Green Festival for test-driving. We have our hybrid vehicles, the C-Max and the Fusion. We have our plug-in hybrids, which are the C-Max Energi and the Fusion Energi. If customers are interested in an all-electric vehicle, we have the Focus Electric and for a lot of people for whom electric doesn’t make sense or the hybrid doesn’t make sense, we also have vehicles with our eco-boost engines, which are advanced gasoline turbocharged engines, which enable much better fuel economy without sacrificing performance, so we have all these different vehicles out there for people to actually see what we’re doing materially with our products along with the display that we have at The Green Festival that talks about all the other sustainability actions that Ford takes. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That is wonderful, and do you get to sit in it or test-drive it or how does that work? They’re all there but what’s the interaction with the consumer that come to The Green Festival test-drive the wonderful electrified Ford cars? JON COLEMAN: The interaction is driving it, sitting in it, whatever makes sense for the customer, whatever information. We have product experts out there who can answer technical details about the car or if you’re just interested in how the vehicle drives, how it accelerates, what it feels like to be in a car that can shift seamlessly from electric only to a gasoline engine, back and forth, all of those things are available, even the advanced park assist, which when you get back and you’re finished with the test-drive, the car will park itself. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Oh my gosh, this is great, so just another great reason for our listeners out there to come to the upcoming Green Festivals in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago to test -drive and to touch and to really get a great feel for your electric cars. Like you said, the C-Max Hybrid, the C-Max Energi, the Focus and the Escape, a great opportunity to really interact with these great vehicles. JON COLEMAN: Definitely. JOHN SHEGERIAN: You know, you mentioned Bill Ford, the great grandson of Henry Ford. What are the real guiding principles to Ford’s commitment to environmentally responsible manufacturing and just sustainability overall and how do they interrelate with a legacy brand like Ford, Jon, and all the technologies that are coming up in front of us every day? How do you mesh those and who’s driving that at Ford right now? JON COLEMAN: Meshing it is surprisingly easy in theory. In practice, obviously much, much harder, but when you look at the legacy of Ford Motor Company, when people think about Henry Ford, they think about innovation. They think about putting the world on wheels. They think about the moving assembly line and aspects that truly changed how the world functioned in the twentieth century and when Bill Ford became Chairman and CEO back in 1999, he issued a challenge to the company to find out what that would be in the 21st century so when you look back at the 20th century manufacturing, almost everyone who’s taken a history course and looked at the Industrial Revolution has seen a picture of the Rouge plant. It’s in almost every history book out there as a model of vertical integration in manufacturing and it was a plant where raw materials came in at one end. You had rubber, you had sand, you had cole, you had iron ore, things like that came in at one end and the other end, cars came out but when you look at it now, it’s not as much an example of the vertical integration as people look at it as what the environmental impacts of that type of production was so back in 2003, we’ve unveiled the new Rouge assembly plant, which was a retrofit that showed the world what 21st century manufacturing could be so it’s got a green roof. It’s got permeable parking lots. It has skylights to provide natural lighting in the workspace, all those types of things, so for manufacturing, we’re able to make that shift and we’re applying those same principles every new plant that we build. Whichever of those principles make the most sense, we’re applying. When we look at vehicles, obviously the Model T was the car that put the world on wheels and it was affordable for everyone and that’s one of the key aspects as we look at vehicles in the 21st century is we’re not interested necessarily in putting out the world’s most environmentally friendly car that cost quarter-of-a-million dollars. That’s not really what the blue oval stands for. The blue oval is about providing mobility to everybody and so the average wage earner can afford the type of mobility that is provided by a Ford vehicle so when we look at environmental solutions for vehicles, we’re looking for things that we can sell at what is currently prices the market will bear for these advanced technologies so we have a broad portfolio, everything from electric to natural gas to biodiesel and everything in between but when we look at making a meaningful impact, the eco-boost engine, which I talked about earlier is this advanced technology engine, we’ve sold millions of those compared to tens of thousands of electric vehicles and plug-in vehicles. Now, the plug-in vehicle is a fascinating technology, but given the choice of selling 10,000 plug-in vehicles or selling 2 million eco-boost vehicles, we realized that eco-boost was a solution in the near term to provide fuel savings of up to 20%. It’s like everyone walking to work on Fridays if you think about it for 2 million people rather than having 10,000 people that can plug in and are generating less emissions that way. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’s a fascinating point, Jon. I never thought of it that way, that you get to not only be one of the greatest innovation companies in the world, but then you’re the democratizer of that innovation and you bring it to everybody. You make it affordable to everybody and that makes a lot of sense. You get to really change the world that way, like you said, and selling two million cars of a certain great type of electric car than 10,000 makes a lot of sense. For our listeners out there who have just joined, we got Jon Coleman. He’s the Fleet Sustainability and Technology Manager at Ford. You can check out all the green and sustainable things that Ford is doing at Ford.com and check out all of the great electric cars that Ford is producing for all the consumers out there in the United States at the Green Festival in Los Angeles September 12th through the 14th, Chicago October 24th through the 26th or San Francisco November 14th through the 16th. You can come and see Ford’s great cars there. You can take them for a test drive and you can ask all the questions you have. Come to the Green Festivals and check out all of Ford’s great lineup of green cars. Jon, going back to consumer demands, where is this going? Obviously, we’ve seen a huge rise in consumer demand for hybrid electric vehicles in previous years. Where do you see this going? Because you’ve been now at Ford for 20 years. You’ve got great visibility, not only backwards but now forwards. Where do you see this going in the years ahead? JON COLEMAN: Well, we see continued growth for hybrid vehicles and it’s not just the Ford Motor Company. It’s the whole industry. Hybrid vehicles used to be something that was unique, just kind of a random vehicle for tree huggers. It’s become mainstream to the point where we’re selling double the number of vehicles in the last couple of years than before and it’s starting to increase as a percentage of the total industry. It used to be that hybrids were only 1 or 2% of the industry and over the last year, we’ve seen that creep up to about 4% of the industry so obviously, that means 96% of the industry is still not hybrid, but it’s to the point now where if you drive a hybrid, people don’t think anything different about your identity than if you’re driving a pickup truck. It doesn’t have the same reference point to a lot of people as hybrids did when we introduced the Escape Hybrid 10 years ago. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Gotcha. That makes a lot of sense. I’ve been reading recently that not only are your engines and all this hybrid technology being implemented in your cars, but also, from a sustainable holistic point of view, you’re making your cars and your vehicles out of more recycled materials. What does that mean with regards to Ford and can you share what kind of materials you’re using in the recycled material process to then implement into your new vehicle manufacturing? JON COLEMAN: I’d love to. We have a lot of recycled materials that we use in our vehicles and for a long time, they were in parts that the customer never saw, so we recycled plastic into battery casings and different components under the hood and a lot of the sound bustles and things that people don’t even realize are on their cars but we were able to reuse the plastics and recycle the materials for those types of things. Obviously, the metal in cars has been recycled for a while but the introduction of the new 2014 F150 being mostly aluminum, that will improve the recyclability of vehicles significantly, not because you can’t recycle galvanized steel, but recycling galvanized steel is a lot more difficult and deals with a lot more chemicals of concern, if you will, than aluminum so when we look at recycled materials, in the past, it’s been things that the customer didn’t see. Now we’re starting to put it in things that the customer does see like the sheet metal but also, in interior components like seat fabrics. We use a tremendous amount of recycled plastic that’s coming into seat fabrics and we’ve got projects that we’ve worked with different companies where we are putting the seat fabric in and then also, we look at renewable materials as well so we use soybean foam in our seat cushions and we recycle denim into our firewalls. There are all kinds of recycled and renewable materials that we have in our vehicles and we’re not stopping what we’re doing now. We’ve got things like we’re using dandelions to find a new type of rubber so that kind of white goo you’ve got on your hands when you were a kid and you were playing with dandelions, turns out we can use that to make rubber so every time we do that — we’re cultivating dandelion fields with Ohio State University so that we can provide rubber from plants instead of from petroleum so we look at things like that. There really are all types of things that we are working with a new group called the Bio Feedstock Alliance, which is companies like Heinz and Nestle that have waste from their food production operations that we’re looking to turn that waste into raw materials for our product so when you talk about renewable and recyclable, they’re starting to blend together a little bit because these renewable materials that are raw materials, raw feedstock, but waste from someone else can then be recycled as well so we’re trying to follow the same idea from Bill McDonough of cradle to cradle where there’s always someone using the waste product from one process as the feedstock for another. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That is awesome, and like you said, some of it’s very overt and some of it, you never even see but it’s in there anyway, so Ford products are being made out of more renewable and recyclable materials. That’s just a great message. For our listeners out there that are interested in purchasing a Ford fuel-efficient vehicle, are there tax incentives, Jon, that exist both nationally and on a statewide basis? JON COLEMAN: We have incentives on almost all of our vehicles and there are also state and federal incentives. The best place to go is the Department of Energy has a website, afdc.energy.gov, and if you go to that website, it will provide all of the information on incentives, rebates, and it’s not just money on the hood. In a lot of places, if you buy a plug-in vehicle, you get HOV access or access into the high-speed lane so there are all types of incentives to try and get people to purchase hybrid vehicles, vehicles that run on natural gas, and like I said, we’d much rather rely on a third-party source to provide people that information and also, if you check with your local dealer, most of them know all the incentives that are available as well. JOHN SHEGERIAN: I love it. We’re down to the last two minutes or so, Jon. Can you share just some of your favorite milestones of progress of innovation that has happened at Ford and then talk a little bit about the future? Take our listeners into the future of Ford vehicles. JON COLEMAN: One of the things that I’m most proud of at Ford Motor Company is what we’re doing with conserving water. We started looking at water as a sustainability issue almost 15 years ago. It was one of the first ideas that we’ve looked at when we looked at manufacturing in the 21st century and realized that water was not something that we should be putting a price on, that it was a truly scarce resource and it was more valuable than petroleum and with that type of mindset, we’ve managed to cut our water use by over 60% since 2000. That’s over 10 billion gallons a year, and we’re continuing, as I said, with every new plant we build and the types of paint we put on the vehicles, everything we look at with an eye to conserving water because living without petroleum would be annoying. Living without water is impossible, and it’s that same type of mindset that we’re looking for moving forward and trying to understand what are we doing with air quality. And, it’s not just carbon emissions. It’s all the other VOCs and all the other chemicals of concern. What are we doing with human rights? How are we making sure that everyone who is on the planet has an opportunity has an opportunity to be part of the formal economy and earn a living wage? What are we doing to ensure that they have clean water to drink? All of these things are interrelated and that’s the challenge for us moving forward. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Thank you so much, Jon, and for our listeners out there that want to come test drive one of Ford’s great hybrid vehicles, come to The Green Festival in LA September 12th through the 14th, Chicago October 24th through the 26th and San Francisco November 14th through the 16th. Thank you, Jon Coleman. Go to Ford.com to learn more about all of Ford’s great hybrid vehicles. Jon, thank you for your inspiring sustainability work at Ford, which helps make the world a better place. You are truly living proof that green is good. JON COLEMAN: Thanks very much.