In what it sees as a potential win-win situation, the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company has found that using soybean oil in the formulation of its products can significantly extend a tire's real-world service cycle while reducing the firm's overall demand for non-renewable petroleum resources. According to Jean-Claude Kihn, Goodyear's chief technical officer, incorporating this organic alternative into the formula can lead to a 10-percent increase in average tread life and allow Goodyear to cut its use of petroleum-based oil by up to 7 million gallons annually.
A team working at the company's Innovation Center in Lawton, Oklahoma, discovered that rubber compounds made with soybean oil blend more easily with silica, another key ingredient in the tire-making mix. Goodyear plans to start testing tires created with this new formulation within the next few months at its proving ground in San Angelo, Texas. Should the evaluation process validate initial expectations, these new-gen Goodyears could start hitting the retail market by 2015.