Technology exists today that could dramatically improve the fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions of U.S. Automobiles. A group of serious organizations (including Ford) will involve great funds for the technology development to improve the performance of plant fibres that are used for injection molded thermoplastic composites. Such projects will reduce the car industry's reliance on unsustainable materials. For example, fibres from plants such as flax and hemp will be used for building composite car parts and accessories.
Ford is developing a bio-material based on soybean oil to substitute the plastic-based conventional foam in car seats and headrests. The soy-foam is easy to make and inexpensive; the main problem so far has been with the smell (probably too much of a change from the toxic smell of new cars). "The foam smells like vegetable oil, which is also made 100 percent from soybean oil. It's not necessarily a bad smell, but people get in their cars and are not used to smelling vegetable oil. But recently, with the soy foams, with new the formulation, we've been able to pass the odor requirements."
Biomaterials such as hemp and sawdust have been used in a limited way in auto manufacturing for the best part of a decade and should be moved to the next level. That technology works by breaking down the bonds that hold clumps of fibres together. After that the plant material is combined with synthetic plastics to produce a lighter and more sustainable composite.