As can be seen from the history of car seats, it is not by accident that polyurethane foam is today by far the main material used for padding in car seats (over 90% of the market). However, our industry does not rest on its laurels and heavily invests into further improving the product.
Current issues being worked on in the industry include:
- Weight reduction as part of an endeavour of the entire automotive supply chain to reduce the weight of vehicles (and thus reduce CO2 emissions). While polyurethane foam is a lightweight material in itself, around 8.75 kg of it are used to produce a vehicle’s seats today.
- Renewable raw materials: Most of the raw materials used to produce flexible polyurethane foam today are derived from crude oil. Foam producers invest into research to increase the use of polyols from renewable sources in the production. The condition is however that foam produced with renewable raw materials must comply with the stringent emission limits for volatile organic compounds set by car manufacturers.
- Recyclability: PU foam being produced from materials derived from crude (or vegetable) oils is a welcome feedstock in waste-to-energy plants. This is why energy recovery is today the preferred solution for the end-of-life treatment of the foam content of car seats. Industry is however investigating other forms of end-of-life treatment.