(Photo: Iowa Soybean Association)
A Goodyear and USB collaboration accelerates
May 26, 2022 | Joseph Hopper
Soy isn’t just being made into new products; it’s being made into better products.
One of the most recent and exciting new uses for soy in consumer goods came from a collaboration between The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company and the United Soybean Board (USB), which began in 2011. Goodyear Chief Engineer Bob Woloszynek and the Goodyear team were trying to learn if soybean oil could meet the same needs as other processing oils in Goodyear products.
“We found out that soy oil was more compatible with polymers than petroleum-based oils,” Woloszynek says. “It was easier to process, but then at the same time, it was also more compatible and gave us more flexibility in our compound formulations.”
Another unique property of soy oil and vegetable oils is generally a very low glass transition temperature — where something goes from being glassy to a rubber-like state. That’s important for addressing some of the main trade-offs in tire performance, especially in the rain and snow, he says.
The company developed a proprietary synthetic polymer through this checkoff-supported research. By 2014, the company’s leaders were looking for the right product to serve as a home for the technology. Because the soybean oil-based technology was novel, it couldn’t immediately be retrofitted into original equipment fitments due to contractual obligations.
In 2017, the Goodyear Assurance WeatherReady passenger tires were the first commercially available tires made with a soybean oil-based rubber compound.
“It was a breakthrough in the industry,” Woloszynek says.
The all-season tire has a three peak mountain snowflake winter rating with a 60,000-tread life warranty.
“We replaced 100% of the petroleum-based oil in the tread compounds in that tire,” he says. “Most of our work is in the tread compounds, which have a shorter development timeline and are most frequently changed from product to product. The tread is also responsible for a good chunk of the tire’s performance.”
The future is soy
Since 2017, Goodyear has rolled out four lines of tires — Assurance WeatherReady, Eagle Enforcer All Weather, Eagle Exhilarate and Assurance ComfortDrive — made using U.S. soy. Each tire equates to around 11 to 12 ounces of soy oil, which roughly amounts to the size of a can of soda. The chief engineer explains there’s room for soy oil to grow in the industry.
“We’re looking to get soybean oil into other tire components, not just the tread,” Woloszynek says. “We are also planning on expanding the synthetic polymer technology portfolio.”
The company is incorporating soy oil into heavy-duty tires like city buses and garbage trucks.
“We have a long-term goal to replace petroleum-based oil in all products by 2040. This trend is just going to continue and accelerate, and with each new product, it’s further increasing the use of soybean oil here in the U.S.”
Iowa Soybean Association Farmer Member Laura Myrtue, who farms in Woodbury County, says market development efforts play a key role in the future for farmers.
“I hate to grow soybeans and not see them going to use,” Myrtue says. “Everyone tells us we need to have new uses, or we’re not going to have a buyer anymore.”
The Goodyear chief engineer says the momentum started by this research is accelerating, extending to demand for sustainable materials. Earlier this year, Goodyear announced a demonstration tire that’s 70% sustainable material by weight and contains multiple soybean oil technologies.
“We have a bold goal: by 2030, to have the first tire containing 100% sustainable material. That’s a long journey and another aggressive goal,” Woloszynek says. “Still, when you think about replacing petroleum-based processing oils with sustainable oils by 2040, you can see the trajectory for increased soybean oil will continue. It’s something our customers are demanding, especially the Original Equipment Manufacturers. It has really accelerated.”