•Ford and Lear Corporation have introduced a new head restraint foam with 25 percent of the polyol replaced with soy
•75 percent of Ford’s North American-built vehicles feature bio-based foam in the head restraints. Vehicles include the Ford F-150, Taurus, Explorer and Fusion
•All Ford North American-built vehicles use bio-based foam in seat cushions and backs. Ford’s use of bio-based foam has helped the company reduce its petroleum oil usage by more than 3 million pounds annually and carbon dioxide emissions by more than 15 million pounds
Dearborn, Mich., Aug. 31, 2011 – Ford and Lear Corporation are taking another leap forward in sustainable technology with the introduction of new head restraint foam that has 25 percent of the polyol replaced with soy.
Seventy-five percent of Ford’s North American vehicles feature bio-foam in the head restraints, including the Ford F-150, Taurus, Explorer and Fusion. All Ford Motor Company vehicles built in North America use bio-foam content in the seat cushions and backs.
“We are continuously looking for new ways to expand our use of bio-based foam, and head restraints are a perfect example,” said Debbie Mielewski, technical leader, Ford Plastics Research. “It’s a new location with higher soy content. We’re not stopping at head restraints, either. There are still many other applications in which traditional foam can be converted to bio-based soy foam on vehicles, such as energy-absorption areas, steering wheels and armrests.”
The extended use of soy foam results from the continued research collaboration between Ford and Lear; Ford first used sustainable soybean oil-derived seating foam on the 2008 Mustang. The collaboration also generated the recent complete conversion of all Lear North American Ford seating cushion foam to Lear SoyFoam™.
SoyFoam is up to 24 percent more renewable than petroleum-based foam. The biomaterial has helped Ford reduce its annual petroleum oil usage by more than 3 million pounds. The use of SoyFoam also has helped Ford reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by more than 15 million pounds. SoyFoam also can provide a 67 percent reduction in volatile organic compound emissions.
“Our success with the introduction of sustainable products confirms customer acceptance of the technology and the need for green automotive interior innovation,” said Ash Galbreath, director, Advanced Materials and Comfort Engineering for Lear Corporation. “Lear’s advancement of ecological breakthroughs is intended both to reduce product sensitivity to petroleum raw material price fluctuations and lessen our impact on the environment.”
A sustainable solution
Ford was the first automaker to demonstrate soy-based foam could be formulated to pass the stringent requirements for automotive applications, pioneering its use in seats for the 2008 Ford Mustang and in headliners for the 2010 Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner.
Ford and Lear have earned several awards for the technology, including the Society of Plastic Engineers’ Innovation Award and R&D Magazine’s annual R&D 100 Award for development and use of soy-based foam in vehicles.
Ford continues to research the use of other renewable sources for foam, including palm, rapeseed and sunflower oil in markets around the world where those commodities are locally available and cost effective.
Ford’s “Reduce, reuse and recycle” commitment is part of the company’s broader global sustainability strategy to reduce its environmental footprint while at the same time accelerating the development of advanced, fuel-efficient vehicle technologies around the world.
Over the past several years Ford has concentrated on increasing the use of non-metal recycled and bio-based materials whenever possible, provided these materials are environmentally favorable and meet all performance and durability requirements. Examples include soy foam seat cushions and gaskets, wheat straw-filled storage bins, recycled resins for underbody systems, recycled yarns on seat covers and natural-fiber plastic for interior components.