Dearborn, Michigan – Ford has announced a new soy oil-based rubber that can be used in automotive parts, replacing up to 25 per cent petroleum oil while doubling the rubber’s stretching characteristics.

The rubber, currently under patent application, can be used for such parts as deflector shields, baffles, cupholder inserts and floor mats. The automaker previously pioneered the use of soy oil in foam for seat cushions and headliners, with more than two million vehicles currently on the road with bio-based foam content.

“Ford is focused on finding innovative ways to make our vehicles more eco-friendly,” said Cynthia Flanigan, technical leader in elastomeric polymers. “Soy-based rubber has win-win potential as it provides superior stretchability and serves as a renewable resource that helps reduce carbon dioxide emissions from raw materials.”

The scope of Ford’s recent rubber research, funded in part by grants from the United Soybean Board, included the use of soy fillers such as flour and meal, as well as soy oils. The fillers can 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 fillers could replace up to 26 per cent of petroleum-based content in automotive rubber applications.

Ford is also looking at the use of other renewable sources for foam, including grape seed and sunflower oil.

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