By MARY ALFORD THE NEWS-ENTERPRISE Oct 1, 2021 Updated Oct 1, 2021
When a person sticks their finger in water it initially creates waves, but eventually the water goes back to being smooth.
“That idea is similar here,” said Bob Holycross, Ford Motor Company’s vice president of sustainability, environmen and safety engineering, in regard to Ford’s plans to build twin manufacturing plants at the Glendale megasite.
The plants are part of Ford’s push for its new generation of electric vehicles. The company has partnered with SK Innovations, a South Korean manufacturer, to produce batteries for electric vehicles.
“We’re going to put shovels in the ground and other things to construct the facility. The idea is how do you do it the most undisruptive way as possible,” Holycross said.
When it comes to constructing a new facility like this, where there isn’t an existing structure, Holycross said it starts with a full environmental assessment, which will help them understand what the least disruptive path to go is about integrating facilities while preserving the natural surroundings of the property itself.
“What you want to understand before you start putting shovels in the ground or anything else is what potential hazards could you encounter for the surrounding community, what are the proper ways to do these things so that there aren’t unintended consequences causing repercussions so you don’t have to remediate later,” he said. That means understanding what is in the ground, what is in the soil, what wildlife there is, and more.
Included in the engineering and designs of the facilities, Holycross said there is going to be what is called biomimicry — the design and production of materials, structures, and systems that are modeled on biological entities and processes.
“What biomimicry attempts to do is look at the design of buildings and other structures and imitate the way that nature is … designed to deal with its own habitats,” he said. “When you think about high speed trains for instance and how high speed trains are designed, the front of a train is shaped very much like the head of a bald eagle and beak in terms of aerodynamics. Nature has this wonderful way of designing the whole ecosystem in the most efficient way as possible and humans do the same type of thing.”
Then, as a manufacturing company gets up and running, Holycross said it becomes about how from an air, water, waste and energy standpoint it can be optimized most efficiently — ideally, with the lowest emissions possible.
“One of the neat things about Kentucky and Tennessee and the Midwest is that there are a lot of renewable energy that is available,” he said. “That is one of the things that attracted us to this area is the potential to use an abundant amount of renewable energy for electricity that will power the plant.”
When it comes to the waste that can be generated from manufacturing processes, Holycross said one of Ford’s longstanding goals is to have what they call “zero waste to landfill.”
“Any waste that comes from the plant is either recycled or reused but not otherwise transferred into landfills,” he said.
According to Holycross, the environmental studies combined with all the engineering analyses for the ultimate construction of the facilities have to come together before they keep progressing.
“The idea is to get started on the overall process sooner rather than later,” he said, estimating the environmental assessment could take place over the next several months.
“We’re just so excited. This is not just about building a new plant. It’s really about the long-term future of transportation in this country. These battery plants are going to be building batteries for zero emissions vehicles. … To have the future be zero emissions transportation that is going to benefit the health and environment not just for the local communities but for the nation as a whole.”
The plants are expected to create 5,000 jobs.