Automobiles have history of driving soybean demand

October 6, 2023

Many of the ideas for soybean oil industrial uses have been with us for generations. It took research, promotion, and innovative minds to commercialize these ideas and get them to market. One of these especially innovative minds was Henry Ford. Along with founding one of the “Big Three” car companies and developing the assembly line that streamlined the manufacture of automobiles, the entrepreneur recruited farmers to plant soybeans with the thought that the crop could be formulated into auto components.

“He believed that someday we would be able to actually grow a car,” said Karen Coble Edwards, founder of KCE Public Affairs Associates, which serves the United Soybean Board. “[The Ford Motor Company’s] ongoing partnership with U.S. soybean growers through the Soy Checkoff actually led to companies like Lear and others commercializing the use of soy in seat cushions.” Replacing petroleum in car seat cushion formulations is far from the only soybean oil-based component in transportation. It’s used to fuel, lubricate and even to keep vehicles rolling. Soybean growers have worked through their checkoff with Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company to help that company meet its sustainability goals by developing their now well-known soy-based tires.

“Soybean oil can now displace 60 percent of the petroleum in the tire by displacing 100 percent of the petroleum in the tread. Goodyear now offers that on eight different lines of tires,” said Edwards. “I’m very excited to know that some government officials as well as farmers and others there in South Dakota are rolling on soy every time they drive.”

Part of what drives soybean demand is that products made from soybean oil are easy on the environment.

“One of the really exciting things that I’ve seen over my career in working with soy-biobased [innovations] is that major cities, like New York City and here in Washington, D.C., where I’m based, they’re recognizing that soy plays a really great role in helping them become more sustainable,” she said, “and that’s why, [at] the soy checkoff, we work with these cities.”

The list of soy-biobased products is voluminous, but there are more of these innovations in a conversation with Karen Coble Edwards on The Soybean POD, available wherever you get your podcasts. In that episode, Edwards talks about the growing number of products commercialized with the help of soybean growers’ investments. Edwards is joined by Goodwin, South Dakota soybean farmer and South Dakota Soybean Checkoff Treasurer Todd Hanten, who talks about his experience finding, purchasing and using Goodyear soy-biobased tires

“The Soy Checkoff is really committed to delivering sustainable solutions to every life every day with U.S. Soy,” Edwards concluded. “It’s almost an endless list and the opportunities just continue to grow.”