Stay on Track with U.S. Soy
Tires are the unsung heroes of grocery store runs and delivery drivers. From the highest heat of summer to the frigid cold of winter, you need reliable tires that will safely get you from point A to point B. Traditionally, tires are manufactured using petrochemical-based components. Recent research and product launches demonstrate a new ingredient option from U.S. soybeans.
Tires made with soybean oil offer a sustainable ingredient option while having comparable or better performance capabilities than conventional tires. Dean Webster, a polymer chemist at North Dakota State University, has been researching how soybean oil can serve as a sustainable alternative to petrochemical-based rubber.
“Soybean oil can improve rubber’s sustainability, without sacrificing performance relative to petrochemical products,” he says.
Major companies like Goodyear and Ford have found the future with soy a promising one. Robert Woloszynek, a chief engineer at Goodyear, says, “Soybean oil has a very low glass transition temperature. That’s the temperature at which a product goes from rubbery to hard and brittle.”
This is good news for drivers who encounter a variety of weather conditions throughout the year.
In fact, Goodyear was so impressed with soy’s performance that in 2017 they launched their first soy-based general-purpose, all-weather tire, dubbed the Assurance® WeatherReady®.
“It was our fastest premium tire to reach 1 million units sold,” according to Woloszynek.
In addition to successful sales, the company’s sustainability portfolio took a big leap forward with the Assurance WeatherReady tires.
By using soybean oil in the rubber formulation, Goodyear replaced 60% of the petroleum content — roughly 12 ounces of material per tire. This innovation won Goodyear the 2018 Environmental Achievement of the Year award from Tire Technology International.
Since then, Goodyear has released two other soy-based tire lines — the Eagle ExhilarateTM for sports cars and the Eagle Enforcer for police vehicles. Goodyear has also announced its goal to fully replace petroleum by 2040.
Ford and Webster at NDSU have been collaborating to come up with new tire-tread formulations using soy-based technology. Webster has also begun experimenting with high oleic soybean oil.
“We’ve found it gives us better oxidative stability and resistance to heat and aging,” Webster says.
Although unable to test the new formulations on the road yet, Webster is hopeful the positive results from his early testing will intrigue Ford’s industry partners.
The uses of soybean oil in tires are just beginning. Goodyear’s success and the initial results from other research show we’re just scratching the surface of the benefits of soybean oil.
Webster assures we’re seeing some success. This new soybean oil option in the tires can help people and businesses get where they need to go.