Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company researchers say that using soybean oil in tires can potentially increase tread life by 10 percent and reduce the tiremaker’s use of petroleum-based oil by up to 7 million gallons each year.
In addition, testing at Goodyear’s tire plant in Lawton, Oklahoma showed improved mixing capabilities in the manufacturing process. The company found that rubber compounds made with soybean oil blend more easily with the silica used in building tires. This can improve plant efficiency and reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
The company will test prototype tires built in Lawton at Goodyear’s Proving Grounds in San Angelo, Texas in the coming months. If indicators remain positive, Goodyear expects consumers will be able to purchase tires made with soybean oil as early as 2015.
The United Soybean Board is helping to fund the Goodyear project with a grant of $500,000 over two years.
Goodyear has launched other initiatives to increase its renewable raw materials use. It is working with DuPont Industrial Biosciences to develop BioIsoprene, a bio-based alternative for petroleum-derived isoprene. BioIsoprene can be used to produce synthetic rubber and other elastomers, and will help reduce the tire and rubber industry’s dependence on petroleum-derived products, according to the companies.
Additionally, Goodyear is developing its Air Maintenance Technology, intended to help tires remain inflated at the optimum pressure without the need for any external pumps or electronics. All components of the AMT system will be fully contained within the tire. Goodyear says AMT’s potential benefits include improved fuel economy, reduced emissions, longer tire life, enhanced safety and improved performance.
Meanwhile Bridgestone Group is working to develop the guayule shrub as a commercially viable, renewable source of high-quality natural rubber for the company’s tires.
And Ford and Recycled Polymeric Materials last year announced that they have found a way to combine discarded tires with bio-renewable content, including soy, to make environmentally friendly seals and gaskets for the auto giant’s vehicles.