AKRON—Goodyear is introducing the first commercially available tires made with a soybean oil-based rubber compound.
The Assurance WeatherReady passenger tires was to be marketed by Goodyear starting in September, according to the United Soybean Board, which has collaborated with Goodyear on developing the compound for the past six years.
The tire will be offered in a wide range of sizes, covering 77 percent of the cars, minivans and SUVs on the road today, the USB said.
Assurance WeatherReady tires represent "yet another market opportunity for soybean oil and, in return, a profit opportunity for soybean farmers," the USB said.
By employing soybean oil in tires, Goodyear has found a new way to keep rubber compounds pliable in changing temperatures, according to the tire maker.
"When Goodyear learned about Ford Motor Co.'s work with the United Soybean Board in using soy-based materials, we decided to expand those efforts and reach out to USB," a Goodyear spokesman said.
Sustainability was the factor that led Goodyear to evaluate soybean oil as a tire compound material, according to the spokesman. But soybean oil, like every other potential ingredient in tires, had to deliver true performance, he said.
"We looked at traits such as compatibility with other tire materials, curing attributes, thermal stability and mixing capability with rubber polymers," the spokesman said. "Fairly quickly, we saw some promising results just by adding the soybean oil without modification into a compound formulation."
Goodyear's tests show that rubber made with soybean oil mixes more easily in the silica-reinforced compounds used in manufacturing certain tires, it said. The resulting compound enhances tire performance in dry, wet and winter conditions.
The soybean rubber project was funded in part by the soybean checkoff, a fund paid for by soybean farmers to develop new applications and opportunities for soybean-based products.
"USB's 73 farmer-directors work on behalf of all U.S. soybean farmers to achieve maximum value for their soy checkoff investments," the USB said in a news release. "These volunteers invest and leverage checkoff funds in programs and partnerships to drive soybean innovation beyond the bushel and increase preference for U.S. soy."
The soybean checkoff is in its 26th year, according to USB Chairman John Motter, who also is a soybean farmer in Jenera, Ohio.
The checkoff consists of one-half of one percent of the net amount of the first purchase of soybeans every year, Motter said. Since its inception, the checkoff among other things has helped pay for the development of 864 different soybean-based products.
"We helped Ford develop soy-based foam for car seats," he said. "We helped the carpet makers in Dalton, Ga., develop soy backing for carpets.
"There are now soy inks for newspapers, and soy-based paints, adhesives and plastics," Motter said. "The sky's the limit."
Goodyear currently is using soybean oil-based rubber compounds only in Assurance WeatherReady tires for the North American market, the Goodyear spokesman said. The company will decide what additional uses may be appropriate, he said.