“Soy is a very green, renewable resource,” says Debbie Mielewski, 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.”
Most automotive manufacturers today use 100 percent petroleum-based polyol foam. Each vehicle produced today contains an average of 30 pounds of petroleum-based foam. The total annual worldwide market for the foam is 9 billion pounds. Milewski says auto manufacturers research and development of renewable, more environmentally friendly materials to produce the foam, could have a significant environmental impact.
Ford has a long history of using alternative materials, although the 1941 prototype that employed a hemp fiber resin body was quietly shut down, supposedly, say the conspiracy theorists, by the US government and strong lobbying from the petroleum industries and companies like DuPont.
Hopefully this move by Ford is the birth of mainstream alternative polymers, ones that are biodegradable and less energy intensive to produce.