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Ford’s Friendlier Painting

All automotive environmental initiatives aren’t focused on things happening under the hood or coming out of the tailpipe.

All automotive environmental initiatives aren’t focused on things happening under the hood or coming out of the tailpipe. Vehicle painting is a big environmental issue. Ford Motor Co. is undertaking a real-world test of what it’s describing as “environmentally responsible new technology” along with U-Haul. Specifically, it has painted approximately 200 E-Series trucks in its Ohio Assembly Plant in Avon Lake, OH, with a new high-solids, solvent-borne paint in a three-wet application process.

No, that’s not a typo: solvent-borne, not water-borne. Apparently, the formulation actually reduces the amount of volatile organic compounds (VOC) and CO2 emissions compared to conventional water-borne (and other solvent-borne) paints.

The “three-wet” means that three coats can be applied on top of one another without required drying in between. This means there is no need for a prime-coat application. What’s more, the air conditioning and low-temperature oven necessary for water-borne paint aren’t needed, either.

So what they’re seeing is the ability to (1) reduce the amount of time it takes to paint a vehicle by 20% and (2) to reduce the size of the paint shop by some 15%. This translates into a savings of about $7.00 per vehicle, all while reducing CO2 emissions (a.k.a., greenhouse gases) by 15% and VOC emissions by 10%.

Mary Ellen Rosenberger, paint manager at Ohio Assembly, commented, “It’s environmentally sound. It’s cost-efficient. And it produces beautifully painted vehicles with long-term durability.” That durability is predicated on the high-solids, solvent-borne paint, which is said to be more chip- and scratch-resistant than water-borne paint. Presumably that will be proven—or disproved—by those U-Haul trucks that will provide Ford with durability data during the next year.