Ford Motor Company recently announced its plan to reduce the amount of water used to make each vehicle by 30 percent (based on 2009 figures) by 2015. Plants in Asia Pacific and Africa have already cut water usage per vehicle by 25 percent from 2000 to 2011, and plan to continue these efforts.
Advanced new technology is helping the automaker achieve its goals. In December 2011, evaporative cooling towers at the Geelong, Australia, engine plant were replaced with highly efficient coolers that use up to 80 percent less water. These hybrid dry coolers only use water during the summer and rely on air for cooling during cold and moderate seasons.
In India, government authorities have been encouraging the reuse of water and mandating an overall reduction in water use; manufacturers are now required to achieve zero liquid discharge in their operations. The Ford assembly plant in Maraimalai Nagar, southwest of Chennai, will meet this requirement thanks to a revolutionary process that treats the plant’s wastewater and recycles it back into the manufacturing processes.
The Chennai plant uses a combination of physical, chemical and biological treatment methods to reach zero liquid discharge. Wastewater streams from the assembly and engine plants are individually pre-treated, then mixed with sanitary and cafeteria wastewaters. After biological treatment, the stream passes through media filtration and activated carbon before it is ultra-filtered. The final stream is sent to a three-stage reverse osmosis system, which produces a large amount of salt-free water and a small amount of concentrated brine. The water in the brine is then boiled off, condensed and reused in the plant, leaving behind a solid salt.
This process in Chennai makes the facility one of Ford’s lowest water usage plants; only 1.16 cubic meters of water are used per vehicle produced. The same treatment operations are also being utilized in Chongqing, China. Chongqing Assembly Plant 1 conserved 110,000 cubic meters of fresh water in 2011, and up to 35 cubic meters of water per hour can be reused in the paint shop alone. At Chongqing Assembly Plant 2, up to 60 cubic meters of water per hour can be reused.
In South Africa, a new state-of-the-art wastewater treatment plant will open later this year at the Silverton Assembly Plant. The facility will help the plant double the amount of water reuse.
Ford is committed to making its facilities and operations safer for the natural environment and surrounding communities. This commitment, along with innovative technology, is a winning combination that sets the bar high for all other automakers.