Renewable Cars

Vehicles get greener with biobased components
By Erin Voegele | October 24, 2011

Ford Motor Co. is working to increase the use of renewable materials in its vehicles. The carmaker recently announced it has teamed up with BASF to develop a caster oil-based foam product for use in the instrument panel of the 2012 Ford Focus. According to Ford, the castor oil blend is more durable, and minimizes component stretch to help optimize airbag deployment. The new foam also takes less time to produce, achieving higher manufacturing productivity.

“Castor oil from plants helps deliver sustainable interior foam that reduces petroleum use while improving vehicle craftsmanship,” says Bari Brown, Ford advanced product development engineer. “It’s beneficial both for the customer and Mother Nature.” Over time, Ford plans to incorporate the castor oil-based foam into more products in its portfolio.

Ford also recently announced the introduction of new head restraint foam, in which 25 percent of the polyol is replaced with soy. The product was introduced in partnership with Lear Corp. According to Ford, 75 percent of its North American-built vehicles now feature biobased foam in the head restraints, while all Ford vehicles built in North America use biobased foam content in the seat cushions and backs. 

—Erin Voegele