Mustang Riders to Sit on Soy-based Foam

By: Anthony Fontanelle

The Ford Motor Co. and Lear Corp. will mark an automotive milestone when the production of soy-based foam for seats begins in the 2008 Mustang. Ford may do the same with other models as well, eventually saving thousands of barrels of oil in the manufacturing process, the automaker said last Thursday.

America's adored pony car will not only be flaunting bright - it will be sporting the industry's first soy-based flexible foam in the seat backs and seat cushions starting in August at the Auto Alliance International factory in Flat Rock, Michigan.

"Our technical team had to overcome several significant hurdles to bring this environmentally responsible technology to production," said Gerhard Schmidt, the vice president of Research & Advanced Engineering at Ford. "We are pleased that our diligent efforts in developing this technology have resulted in the production of soy-foam for the Ford Mustang."

Lear, a leader in the area of environmental auto seating with industry firsts, liked the use of expanded polypropylene and polyethylene materials which are used in place of traditional polyurethane foam which offers reduced mass and are 100 percent recyclable.

"Using renewable resources is an important means to supplying automotive products that improve environmental impact," said Ray Scott, the senior vice president and president of Lear's Seating Systems Division. "This also helps in reducing the amount of pollution in the production of materials for automotive use. Ford Motor Company and Lear Corporation are able to bring this product to market ahead of our competitors due largely to our collaborative work with in the area of 'Green' technology."

Ford and Lear collaborated with the United Soybean Board - New Uses Committee (a group of 64 farmers and agriculture industry leaders), Urethane Soy Systems Company, Bayer Corporation and Renosol Corporation on soy-foam development.

"Soy is a very green, renewable resource," said Debbie Mielewski, the technical leader for Ford's Materials Research & Advanced Engineering Department. "Using soy-based foam gives us the opportunity to conserve natural resources and reduce our environmental footprint."

Ford said that the environmental advantages include reduced carbon dioxide emissions in manufacturing compared to petroleum-based foam, lower energy use to produce the soy foam and reduced dependence on foreign oil.

At present, most automakers today use 100 percent petroleum-based polyol foam. Each vehicle manufactured contains an average of 30 pounds of petroleum-based foam. The total annual worldwide market for the foam is nine billion pounds. Mielewski said that the auto manufacturers' research and development of renewable, more environmentally friendly materials to produce the foam could have a significant environmental impact.

The Dearborn-based automaker has not calculated exactly how much oil it would save if it used the new foam for every application in all of the 2.9 million vehicles it produces annually. But Mielewski said that if all the foam was soy-based, Ford would use 11 million pounds of soy oil, and the petroleum savings would be a similar volume.

The foam, which is 40 percent soy and 60 percent oil-based, costs about the same as conventional foam that is fully oil-based, Mielewski said. "Currently we believe that the technology is a cost wash, but you have to remember that is because we are implementing it on one program and lower volumes," she said, predicting that the cost would drop when used in more vehicles.

The annual worldwide market for automotive foam is nine billion pounds, so a switch to a renewable material could have a significant environmental impact, Mielewski said. Ford hopes to use the new seat foam in more models in the upcoming 2008 model year, Mielewski added. It also is applying for patents on the foam technology. And no, the foams are not edible!

Top Searches on
Car Parts
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 

» More on Car Parts
 



Share this article :
Click to see more related articles