Researchers at the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company have found in their tests that using soybean oil in tires can potentially increase tread life by 10% and reduce the tiremaker’s use of petroleum-based oil by up to seven 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.
Prototype tires built in Lawton will be tested 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 (USB) is helping fund the Goodyear project with a grant of $500,000 over two years. Goodyear will display a tire made with soybean oil on 6-7 August at The Ford Motor Company’s research center in Dearborn, Michigan, as part of an event sponsored by the USB.
Goodyear is also partnering with DuPont Industrial Biosciences to develop BioIsoprene, a bio-based alternative for petroleum-derived isoprene. BioIsoprene can be used for the production of synthetic rubber—which in turn is an alternative for natural rubber—and other elastomers. The development of BioIsoprene will help further reduce the tire and rubber industry’s dependence on petroleum-derived products.