Ford Motor Company and Lear Corporation will mark an automotive milestone in August when production of soy-based foam for seats begins in the 2008 model year Ford Mustang, which will use the industry's first soy-based flexible foam in the seat backs and seat cushions beginning in August at the Auto Alliance International factory in Flat Rock, Mich.
Ford has a long history of incorporating soy-based materials into its products, with the iconic Model T containing 60 pounds of soybeans in its paint and molded plastic parts.
Ford was the first automaker to demonstrate that soy-based polyols could be used at high percentage levels to make foam capable of meeting or exceeding automotive requirements. In 2004, Ford and Lear formed a partnership to commercialize soy-foam applications, with initial work concentrating on the molding of headrest and armrest components.
Lear is a leader in the area of environmental systems for automotive seating and is responsible for the development of several industry firsts, such as the use of expanded polypropylene and polyethylene materials, which offer lower mass and is 100% recyclable, in place of traditional polyurethane foam.
The environmental advantages of soy-foam include a reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions when compared to current petroleum-based material, lower energy required to produce the material, up to 24% renewable content and a reduction of dependence on volatile energy markets.
Ford and Lear collaborated with the United Soybean Board's New Uses Committee (a group of 64 farmers and agriculture industry leaders), Urethane Soy Systems Company, Bayer Corporation and Renosol Corporation on the soy-foam development.
Most automotive manufacturers today use 100% petroleum-based polyol foam. Each vehicle produced today contains an average of 30 pounds of petroleum-based foam, and the total annual worldwide market for automotive seating foam is 9 billion pounds.
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