2018 Marks Ten Years of Soybean Seats in Ford Vehicles

Ford has been making cushioning out of soybean-based foam for the last decade

Ford Scientists Use Soy Alternative To Traditional Seat Foam
Ford—Wieck

When people think about renewables and sustainable products in the auto industry, most of the time they’re thinking about solar panel roofs and hydrogen fuel cells. The last thing that crosses their mind is soy bean car seat foam. Little did you Mustang drivers out there know, that for the last 10 years you’ve been sitting on what amounts to a hill of beans.

This soybean-based foam started its life in the 2008 Mustang but has since been used for seat cushions, backs and headrests in every Ford vehicle since 2011. That means that there are over 18 million vehicles on the road today built with soybean materials.

So, what made Ford get all George Washington Carver all of a sudden? Let’s think back to 2008. The world was plunging into Great Recession and oil prices were skyrocketing. Crude topped out over $150 a barrel, compared to the mid-$50s where it trades today. Crude is the key ingredient in the petroleum-based polyol plastic that was used throughout the auto industry. This material started getting very expensive and put the squeeze on margins in Ford’s inexpensive vehicle line-up like the sporty V6 Mustang.

Ford put the idea out to their suppliers and worked with them to build the soybean-based foam material. But it didn’t stop there, as now Ford features eight different sustainable materials in their vehicles using soy, wheat, rice, castor, hibiscus, tree cellulose, jute and coconut.

In a press release celebrating the 10 years of soybean-based foam, Ford Executive Chairman said, “From our labs to our suppliers, incorporating renewable materials into auto parts takes a lot of work, but it’s the right thing to do.  At Ford, we want to do our part to reduce our impact on the environment, and using more sustainable materials in the vehicle is one of the ways we are doing this.”

The key takeaway here is that when it makes sense economically, big companies will make the move to sustainable products. Out of the global financial crisis came innovation. I’m only left with one questions, what the heck is jute?