More than ever the auto industry and its customers are looking at ways to cut back on petroleum use, but it isn’t just about getting better fuel economy – it’s about using eco-friendly renewable materials as well.
Having already pioneered the use of soy foam seat cushions in vehicles, Ford’s biomaterial researchers have engineered a patent-pending formula to use renewable soy oil to improve rubber car parts and make them more environmentally friendly.
By using renewable soy oil as a 25 percent replacement for petroleum oil, Ford researchers more than doubled rubber’s stretchability and reduced its environmental impact. Soy-based rubber parts such as radiator deflector shields, air baffles, cupholder inserts and floor mats are under consideration for future Ford vehicle programs.
The scope of Ford’s recent rubber research, which was funded in part by grants from the United Soybean Board (USB), included the use of soy fillers (flour, meal) as well as soy oils.
Ford researchers found that soy fillers could provide an inexpensive and environmentally friendly partial replacement of carbon black, a petroleum-based material traditionally used to reinforce rubber. Used together, soy oil and soy fillers could replace up to 26 percent of the petroleum-based content in automotive rubber applications.
While rubber’s role in automotive applications is generally not a glamorous one, it is significant. According to the International Rubber Study Group, the automotive sector accounts for more than 50 percent of worldwide rubber consumption, which exceeded 22 million metric tons in 2008. Automotive rubber usage is expected to rise more than 4 percent through 2013.
Learn more about Ford’s work on soy-based rubber.