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Goodyear pledges to boost soybean oil in tire lineup

Checkoff funds used to develop soy-based tread cap in four replacement tire lines.

More Goodyear tires on American roads means more consumption of soybean oil, giving farmers another value-added product helped in part by the soybean checkoff. 

Goodyear Tire and Rubber announced March 29 that it aims to replace petroleum oil in its tires by 2040. Through this policy, it can help guide processors, farmers, and all other members of the supply chain to establish practices and make sound environmental and social decisions related to the growing, harvesting, and processing of soybeans.

“Goodyear’s use of soybean oil is growing, and we want our actions to make a difference in the lives of soybean farmers and others in the soybean supply chain,” said Maureen Thune, VP and chief procurement officer in a press release. “Our new policy will help guide us as we work with processors, farmers, and others to strengthen the sustainability of the global soybean supply chain.”

Bob Woloszynek, chief engineer of Goodyear’s global raw material development and approval division, says the equivalent of 12 ounces of soybean oil is used in each Assurance WeatherReady, Eagle Enforcer All Weather, Eagle Exhilarate, and Assurance ComfortDrive replacement tire sold. 

Checkoff funded research

Since 2011, Goodyear has used soybean oil in its tread compounds. “Soybean oils have two key attributes. One is improved compatibility with rubber, or the elastomers we use in our tire product,” Woloszynek says. Second, the soybean oils have a low “glass transition temperature,” or the falling ambient and road temperature where rubber loses its viscous, rubbery properties, which translates into lower road-handling performance. 

“Since soybean oil has a significantly lower glass transition, we can break the traditional tradeoff of winter tires vs. all-season tires,” he explains. 

The innovation in tires is due to a collaboration between Goodyear and the United Soybean Board, which provided technical funding for Goodyear engineers to work with special grades of soybean oil. The company spent years learning to properly use soybean oil to replace petroleum oil. By the time its first passenger car line featuring soybean oil was launched in 2017, the USB had become an essential research partner.

“They helped us not only get the word out there, but also to find customers such as fleets and municipalities that value sustainability,” Woloszynek says. 

More to come

It took several years for Goodyear engineers to perfect the compounds of soy-based tread that were an improvement over petroleum-based rubber. From 2012-14, the company performed development work to create soybean-based polymers. It took three more years to find the right tire lineup fit. 

“Our goal is to provide performance and value to the end user,” Woloszynek says. “The complexity of the modern tire is something most consumers do not appreciate. They have no idea the material and design complexity.

“The one thing we need to keep in mind, we’re not going to use a material to use a new material,” he adds. “It’s added complexity and added cost. If something new gets into the tire, it needs to be there.”

However, the confidence gained in the successful launch of four products – including the Exhilerate, an Ultra High Performance replacement tire – gives the company the confidence it can use soybean oil as a major component of many of its tire lines, he adds. 

“We are aggressively looking to expand this tech across other applications, not just passenger tires, but in truck and heavy tire applications,” he says. And by 2040, it will be mainstream in all lines. 

“Obviously the success and versatility of the first four products, gives us a lot of confidence we’ll be able to fully replace petroleum oil in our products with soybean oil,” he says. 

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