Essential though it is, the automobile has one major fault: wherever it is used in large numbers, its internal-combustion engine contributes mightily to air pollution problems. As a result, automakers have already been sued on various grounds for degrading the environment. Moreover, they will have to move with unaccustomed speed to meet the minimum requirements of tough federal laws that go into effect in 1971. Instead of merely waiting for the next anti-pollution blow to fall, however, Henry Ford II has a better idea.
Top Priority. In an announcement that was precedent-setting for Detroit, he committed the Ford Motor Co. "to an intensified effort to minimize pollution from its products and plants in the shortest possible time." Top priority in Ford's program will be given to cleaning up the internal-combustion engine. The company is road-testing 24 "concept" cars containing entirely new equipment designed to reduce exhaust fumes. Several hundred such cars will soon be sold, leased or lent to private fleet owners and governmental agencies for further testing. In related anti-pollution moves, Ford technicians are speeding the development of: > An electrical device costing roughly $600 that will enable garage mechanics to make the proper adjustments in a car's engine to minimize pollution.
> An experimental kit to cut pollution by about 50% that will fit into Ford cars now on the road.
> A device that will check for the emission of pollution from cars while they are still on the assembly line.
Ford's efforts will be costlyand not only to Ford. The company has budgeted some $31 million for vehicle pollution control next year. It will also spend approximately $60 million to cut air and water pollution at Ford plants over the next two years. But in the end, Chairman Ford admitted, "at least a major part" of the cost of such environmental protection will be passed along to the consumer.
While all the improved devices in Ford's future may eventually reduce the exhaust pollution of internal-combustion engines by 90%, the ultimate solution to the problem could well be a new kind of power source. Ford has already experimented with electric cars and gas-turbine engines for trucks and buses. Now Henry Ford II promised that it will also move "ahead on the more difficult problem of developing a turbine engine for passenger car use."