A bit of a showman, Henry Ford used a stunt to show the strength and potential of soy plastic. The story goes that he swung an ax at the side of a car his company built made of soy plastic panels. Reports say that the ax bounced off and Ford’s point was made. While the soy car didn’t take off right away, these days more soy can be found in and around automobiles than most travelers may realize.

Riding Comfortably, Safely with Soy

The Ford Mustang is an iconic car, recognizable to generations of motorheads. It’s also the first car Ford put soy-based foam seats in when the company started using the material in 2008. Just a few years later in 2011, Ford expanded soy-based foam seating by using it in all vehicles produced in North America. After finding success in soy-based polyurethane foam, the Ford team developed other uses for soy including in rubber flap pads on the F-150 truck and in seals, gaskets and even some air filters.

While using sustainable materials seems obvious today, it wasn’t that way when Ford reignited the work to include soy-based foam in its cars in the early 2000s. But nowadays between consumers’ increasing concern for the environment and the growing focus on corporate sustainability, following in their founder’s footsteps by experimenting and committing to the use of renewable ingredients has proven to be the right choice.

Tires are another vehicle part looking for a sustainable upgrade. In 2017, Goodyear introduced its Assurance WeatherReady tires for passenger vehicles, made with soybean oil. What started as a search for a sustainable, renewable ingredient actually proved to be a performance enhancer as well. Soybean oil could not only improve tire flexibility across temperatures but also provide enhanced grip on road surfaces, making it an ideal choice for Goodyear’s all-weather tire line. Goodyear offers three tires manufactured with soybean oil, the Assurance WeatherReady®, Assurance ComfortDrive® and Eagle Exhilarate®, and the Metro Miler tires for commercial trucks.

Back to Basics with Soy Biodiesel

Many of us are familiar with renewable fuels and soybean oil is one ingredient that can be used to make biodiesel for diesel engines. A cleaner-burning, renewable alternative to petroleum diesel, biodiesel is helping to diversify the U.S. transportation fuel supply. One of the best examples of how soy biodiesel can benefit a community is when it is used in school buses in place of traditional petroleum diesel.

Back in 1997, a school district in New Jersey made the switch to soy biodiesel in its bus fleet and never looked back. The benefits include fewer emissions, less diesel particulate matter and reduced fleet operation costs.

The aviation industry has taken note of biodiesel’s success on the ground. Sustainable aviation fuel has been a focus of the industry, and soy-based jet fuel may be powering more flights in the future. Airlines have the goal to be completely biofuel powered by 2050, reducing emissions and the carbon footprint for air travel.

From dashboards to tires to fuel, soy is playing a role in travel now and into the future. People travel thousands of miles each year using all kinds of modes of transportation. Finding ways to do this more sustainably will be key and soy is offering an answer.