By Rhoda Miel, Plastics News Staff
Dearborn, Michigan -- Ford Motor Co. will use a soyabean urethane foam blend in the seats for the next generation of its Explorer sport utility vehicle, which hits the roads later this year, and claims it will use soya in "nearly 100 percent" of its vehicle fleet by the end of 2010.
The Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker was the first major carmaker to begin using soya urethane blends beginning with the Mustang in 2007. It now uses blends with at least 5 percent soyabean oil in seats, seat backs, headliners and other interior parts, estimating that the blend helps it cut its annual petroleum use by 3 million pounds (1361 tonnes).
Lear Corp., based in Southfield, Michigan, is making the seats. It has worked with Ford to improve soya foam and develop commercial applications since 2004.
Ford has also used natural fibres in structural plastics, including a wheat straw in storage bins that made its first appearance in 2009, and has discussed its experiments into using corn-based polylactic acid resin and other bio-based materials.
"Soy foam is just the tip of the iceberg in the development of vehicle materials from natural resources," said Debbie Mielewski, Ford polymer technical leader, in a 23 June press release. "We have to entertain the thought of bio-replacement in baby steps, looking at every aspect of a car that could be green. One day I hope to see the automotive world go totally compostable, removing the use of petroleum-based parts 100 percent."