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Goodyear Says Soybean Oil Makes Better Tires
August 17, 2012
Using soybean oil to make tires could increase tread life by 10 percent and replace seven million gallons of petroleum-based oil each year, according to researchers at Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company.
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 is expected to 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.
"Consumers benefit through improved tread life, Goodyear gains with increased efficiency and energy savings and we all win whenever there is a positive impact on the environment," said Jean-Claude Kihn, Goodyear's chief technical officer.
The use of soybean oil is just one of the initiatives Goodyear is pursuing to increase its use of renewable raw materials. Goodyear and DuPont Industrial Biosciences continue to work together 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.
Another effort underway is Goodyear's Air Maintenance Technology (AMT). AMT will help enable tires to 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. The potential benefits of such a system include improved fuel economy, reduced emissions, longer tire life, and enhanced safety and performance.
Earlier this year, Nissan announced its Easy Fill Tire Alert system, an innovation in its Altima line of sedans that will help owners maintain proper tire inflation.
@Bart_King is a freelance writer and communications consultant.