Johnson Controls has developed foam pads for automotive seatbacks and cushions consisting of 5% soy-based products and 95% polyurethane. The company is already marketing the soy-based seat systems, which will appear in a number of model year 2008 production vehicles.
Engineers at Johnson controls replaced 5% of the total pad weight with soy oil. The resulting cushion matches the performance of conventional foam in durability, shape and comfort.
Currently, Johnson Controls molds more than 100 million pounds of urethane foam annually for automotive seats for North America.
In December, Lear Corporation announced its soybean oil-based flexible foam material—SoyFoam—for automotive interior applications is up to 24% renewable as opposed to traditional non-renewable petroleum-based foam. (Earlier post.)
Typically, a complete set of seats for a vehicle uses about 25 to 30 pounds of urethane foam for seat cushions and seatbacks, and 2 to 5 pounds of foam for headrests and arms combined. Utilizing soy-based foam for seat cushions and backs offers a larger opportunity overall for reducing the use of petroleum-based material when compared to using a higher percentage of soy for smaller parts, according to Johnson Controls.
The company is also working on foam with higher soy content of up to 40%. In October, scientists at Ford’s Research and Innovation Center announced they had formulated the chemistry to replace 40% of the standard petroleum-based polyol with a soy-derived material. (Earlier post.)