Goodyear has been cooking up a new recipe for tires in order to cut petroleum use and increase the sustainability of its products. Tires use a large amount of petroleum and in an effort to get around it, the company is currently testing tires made with soybean oil.
Tires made with soybean oil showing promise
Typically, when one thinks of soy products, food items such as soy sauce, tofu and soy milk, the milk-like beverage of choice for the lactose intolerant, come to mind. Automotive applications wouldn’t ordinarily be on the list. However, according to the Washington Post, Goodyear is currently testing tires made with soybean oil. It’s part of Goodyear’s efforts to boost sustainability of its products and reduce petroleum dependence.
The tires aren’t made with soybean oil in lieu of petroleum, which is used in tire construction, but rather blended with it, meaning less petroleum oil is used. They are also showing promise. Early tests show a 10 percent boost in tread life in tires made with soy oil.
Further testing is being done at Goodyear’s test track in Texas, according to USA Today, and if results are sufficiently good, the soy-petroleum blend may be appearing at a tire shop near you.
Alternative compounds a mainstay in tire construction
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Petroleum, according to Road and Track magazine, makes up about 6 percent of overall tire composition, used partially as a plasticizer to make the compound easier to mold. Rubber only makes up around 40 percent. Filler and other components, such as steel belting used for structure, make up the rest.
Synthetic and alternative materials have been used in the tire industry for decades. Currently, according to MotorTrend, only about 19 percent of the rubber used in the typical passenger tire is actually natural. Much of the oil that goes into tire construction is used to synthetically create isoprene, a compound found in natural rubber, according to MSNBC. Petroleum-based isoprene is used to make a synthetic rubber, which is blended with natural rubber to create the rubber portion of a tire.
Goodyear, along with other tire companies like Michelin, have been experimenting with other methods of creating isoprene for years, according to MotorTrend, including alternative biosources. The more of a tire that can be produced naturally, the better; any useable compound growable by agriculture is by nature more sustainable.
Goodyear tired of oil dependence
Goodyear can save about 7 million barrels of oil by switching to a petroleum-soybean oil blend, according to USA Today. However, a good deal of testing is going to have to be done before the tires are on the rack and on the road. The earliest it could be available would be by 2015.