Goodyear Tire Company uses soybean oil for tire production
May 5, 2021
Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company recently announced its long-term commitment to sustainability through the use of soybean oil in tire production. The company will phase out petroleum-derived oil use in tire production by 2040.
“I think this is a great story because it really highlights Goodyear’s commitment to innovation,” said Bob Woloszynek, chief engineer of global raw material development at Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company.
The United Soybean Board is working in partnership with Goodyear to provide research on the use of soybean oil in tire production. Initial research showed use of the oil provided improved tire flexibility in all temperatures as well as an enhanced grip on road surfaces. This innovation was first commercialized in 2017 with the Assurance Weather Ready tire line. Another product line followed suit each year, including the Eagle Enforcer All Weather line in 2018, the Eagle Exhilarate line in 2019 and the Comfort Drive line in 2020.
Earlier this year, the company announced a sustainable soybean oil procurement policy showcasing its commitment to sustainably-sourced raw materials. The policy emphasizes six important components: human rights, responsible land acquisition and use, soybean oil processing, soybean growing and harvesting, supplier alignment and policy implementation and compliance.
“We will be increasing soybean oil use in the near term,” Woloszynek said. “The long-term plan of fully replacing petroleum oil products is on track because of the success with soybean oil.”
Similar to other vegetable oils, soybean oil has many good qualities, Woloszynek said. It mixes well with the rubber used to produce tires, a quality that can be leveraged for processing and performance. It also has a low glass transition temperature, which means it goes from a flowing material to a glassy-type material without getting too hot, he said.
“Vegetable oils are all in the same family, but this one is appealing because it’s domestic, abundant and renewable,” he said. “In the Americas, this is the one that’s most abundant after all other applications, such as food and biodiesel, so this really makes a lot of sense.”
Woloszynek said demand for products produced using soybean oil continues to be very good especially from municipal fleets and government agencies. The value-added tires are performing well in the market and are getting high ratings.
“Consumers are thrilled with the performance [of these tires],” he said.
Although the global pandemic reduced consumer tire usage throughout 2020, Goodyear still sold a whopping 126 million tires globally. In the U.S. and Canada in 2019, the company sold 40 million tires. These numbers show the necessity of utilizing sustainably-produced products.
The company is using rice husk ash silica, a byproduct of rice processing, after finding a supplier that converts highly dispersible silica into a product that meets the criteria of conventional silica. Dandelion rubber is another raw material in use at Goodyear, an innovation that recently earned the company recognition in the Program of Excellence in Natural Rubber Alternatives.
Russian dandelions have roots made of 15 percent latex and take just six months to mature. Rubber trees have latex sap and take up to seven years to mature. Most natural rubber plantations are in Southeast Asia and, since Goodyear needs a large volume of rubber each year, logistics can prove to be difficult during rubber transportation.
“Goodyear has demonstrated its capability of building sustainable tires,” Woloszynek said. “It’s one thing to find a raw material that's environmentally friendly to replace existing materials, but for our teams here in research and development to find a way to take soybean oil and figure out a way to replace petroleum oil and also get a performance benefit that we couldn't get without it, it's a win-win. Customers are getting a more sustainable end product but they’re also getting the performance they want.”