Goodyear Tire and Rubber is working on a new technology that can help make its tires less expensive to produce and last longer and it involves something that the U.S. has plenty of – soybeans.

Goodyear researchers have found that using soybean oil in the manufacturing process can extend the tread life of tires and significantly reduce the amount of petroleum required, "up to seven million gallons each year" for the company as a whole. Adding soy to rubber compounds in tire production, the company says, has proven to improve the mixing process, and creates a better rubber compound. The soy helps the rubber blend easier with the silica, a basic component of ordinary beach sand and an integral tire ingredient.

Goodyear is the the best-selling tire-manufacturer in North America. Adding soy, Goodyear says, could enhance its already strong reputation for quality. Goodyear has consistently been a top pick in ConsumerReports' tire ratings. Therefore, a 10-percent increase to tread life could play well with consumers looking to get more miles for their tire bucks.

"Consumers benefit through improved tread life, Goodyear gains with increased efficiency and energy savings and we all win whenever there is a positive impact on the environment." said Jean-Claude Kihn, Goodyear's chief technical officer, in a statement.

If testing continues to produce the results Goodyear has gotten thus far, the tires could be on sale by 2015. For more on tires, check out the AOL Autos Techsplanation series on Tire Tread Technology.
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Goodyear Discovers Soybean Oil Can Reduce Use of Petroleum in Tires

AKRON, Ohio, July 24, 2012 – The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company today announced a development that could help consumers and the environment by reducing the amount of petroleum-based oil used in tires, while at the same time, extending tread life.

Goodyear researchers at the company's Innovation Center here have found in their tests that using soybean oil in tires can potentially increase tread life by 10 percent and reduce the tiremaker's use of petroleum-based oil by up to seven million gallons each year.

In addition, testing at Goodyear's tire plant in Lawton, Oklahoma showed improved mixing capabilities in the manufacturing process. The company found that rubber compounds made with soybean oil blend more easily with the silica used in building tires. This can improve plant efficiency and reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

"Goodyear is committed to caring for the environment and communities, and use of soybean oil is proving to be another way to accomplish this goal," said Jean-Claude Kihn, Goodyear's chief technical officer. "Consumers benefit through improved tread life, Goodyear gains with increased efficiency and energy savings and we all win whenever there is a positive impact on the environment."

Prototype tires built in Lawton will be tested at Goodyear's Proving Grounds in San Angelo, Texas in the coming months. If indicators remain positive, Goodyear expects consumers will be able to purchase tires made with soybean oil as early as 2015.

The United Soybean Board (USB) is helping fund the Goodyear project with a grant of $500,000 over two years. Goodyear will display a tire made with soybean oil on August 6-7 at The Ford Motor Company's research center in Dearborn, Michigan, as part of an event sponsored by the USB.

"The United Soybean Board congratulates Goodyear for its commitment to sustainability," said Russ Carpenter, USB's New Uses Committee chair and a soybean farmer from Trumansburg, N.Y. "The ongoing discovery of novel applications for soybean oil validates our commitment to the environment, cultivating a renewable feedstock that reduces carbon emissions and provides a natural replacement for petrochemical alternatives. The USB and America's soybean farmers are excited to support Goodyear in this effort to provide consumers with cost-effective, eco-friendly products."

The use of soybean oil is just one of the initiatives Goodyear is currently undertaking to increase its use of renewable raw materials. Goodyear and DuPont Industrial Biosciences continue to work together to develop BioIsoprene, a revolutionary bio-based alternative for petroleum-derived isoprene. BioIsoprene can be used for the production of synthetic rubber-which in turn is an alternative for natural rubber-and other elastomers. The development of BioIsoprene will help further reduce the tire and rubber industry's dependence on petroleum-derived products.

Another effort underway in Goodyear to save non-renewable fossil fuel is Goodyear's Air Maintenance Technology (AMT). AMT will help enable tires to remain inflated at the optimum pressure – without the need for any external pumps or electronics. All components of the AMT system will be fully contained within the tire. The potential benefits of such a system include improved fuel economy, reduced emissions, longer tire life, enhanced safety and performance.

Goodyear is one of the world's largest tire companies. It employs approximately 72,000 people and manufactures its products in 53 facilities in 22 countries around the world. Its two Innovation Centers in Akron, Ohio and Colmar-Berg, Luxembourg strive to develop state-of-the-art products and services that set the technology and performance standard for the industry. For more information about Goodyear and its products, go to www.goodyear.com/corporate.