Goodyear utilizes soybean oil in tires to improve performance

Kaley Sievert Fergus Falls Daily Journal
Minn. McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Harold Stanislawski is the project development director of the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute and he drives thousands of miles a year for his job. That is why getting reliable tires for his car are a huge priority for him. So, when he knew that Goodyear was selling high-performance tires with an agricultural commodity like soybeans in them, he was all over that.

“The tire comes with a full 60,000-mile warranty from Goodyear and it has all the characteristics I am looking for in a safe tire,” Stanislawski said.

So why is Goodyear selling tires that utilize soybean oil? According to Stanislawski, they were looking for a way to improve tire performance in cold and wet weather.

“By adding soybean oil to their tires, it made the tire more pliable, particularly in cold weather and it helps the tire get better traction in wet weather and on snow,” Stanislawski said. “Soybean oil also makes the tire more sustainable, because you are using a renewable resource in the tire itself.”

Mike Bussian is the manager at Goodyear in Fergus Falls and he has been working there for 10 years. He is excited to see Goodyear bringing in this new product to the market.

“It’s a good product for everybody around here and for farmers,” Bussian said. In addition to the benefits of this new tire Stanislawski mentioned, Bussian said the tires are also less prone to leak air. “A lot of tires get hard when it gets really cold and they will leak around the beads, but the soybean oil helps these tires not get as hard.”

Beads are located where the tire meets the rim.

How soybean oil hit the road

Goodyear was able to come up with this product with the help of the United Soybean Board, Minnesota Soybean Council and AURI.

According to an article written by the United Soybean Board and containing quotes from Goodyear scientist experts, for six years, the soybean checkoff worked with Goodyear to develop soy-based technology to add performance to road tires. This technology was used in Goodyear’s new Assurance WeatherReady tire, which is the tires Stanislawski installed on his vehicle. The Soybean checkoff was established to do something like this, bringing profit to farmers who fund research on soybeans.

Stanislawski further explained how the checkoff works.

“The Minnesota Soy Council has authorization from the federal government to collect checkoff dollars from farmers who raise soybeans. There is a small amount of money that goes into a fund to go into research and then that council, through a board called United Soybean Board funds research with those dollars and that’s how this happens,” Stanislawski said.

Goodyear scientists and engineers evaluated traits in soybeans such as compatibility with other tire materials, curing attributes, thermal stability and mixing capability with rubber polymers. They also ran various tests to ensure the success and reliability of the new tires. In the process of making the tires, not only did Goodyear discover the soybean oil tires had performance benefits for drivers looking for a safe tire, but it also helped Goodyear on the manufacturing side.

“Goodyear found by including soybean oil in the manufacturing process, they increased their efficiency and some other measurements with how to make the tire itself,” Stanislawski said.

The article by the United Soybean Board continued to explain that the soybean oil mixed easier with rubber compounds used to make the tires which reduced energy consumption and improved manufacturing efficiency.

Once the tires were ready to be put on the market, the Assurance WeatherReady tires appeared in Goodyear stores this past August.

“Goodyear has tires available in about 35,000 locations in the country. … The tires will be sold in nearly every Goodyear output in the country,” Stanislawski said. “And a tire like this can utilize up to 60,000 bushels of soybeans.”

At the Fergus Falls location, since August, according to Bussian about five sets of the soybean oil tires have been sold.

Key players in soybean research

Mike Youngerberg, senior director of product development and commercialization with the Minnesota Soy Council is ecstatic to see the partnership with Goodyear and soybean research succeeding.

“This was a national program through the United Soybean Board,” Youngerberg said. “The United Soybean Board works with a lot of the bigger companies nationwide looking at renewable usage and all kinds of things as they see more folks within those industries looking for recyclable and biobased products.”

He said researching how soybean oil would extend the life and performance of Goodyear tires took a long time and it isn’t something that happens overnight.

Stanislawski said AURI works with the Minnesota Soy Council on various research projects, the soybean oil tires being just one example.

“AURI has been around for almost 30 years,” Stanislawski said. “We were created by the state of Minnesota in the ’80s, for the purpose of adding value to Minnesota agriculture commodities. So the only thing we do really is we work in value-added agriculture in trying to turn crops and livestock into further value.”

Although not many farmers or consumers in the area may know about Goodyear’s new tires, Stanislawski said the soybean oil tires are a great benefit to the whole community and it’s great to see Goodyear taking on this product.

“Goodyear is one of the largest companies that process tires in the world,” Stanislawski said. “It is great to see a company at this stature to take this on and take it to the marketplace.”

Youngerberg said the Minnesota Soy Council is eager to tell the public all about Goodyear’s new tires. He wants the word to get out there that this is a good tire that lasts longer and it uses a soybean-based product.

“We hope that people will take a look at the tires and say, ‘This is a good product and it helps my local community, so why not [buy it]?'” Youngerberg said. “We don’t have any rubber plantations in Minnesota, but we do have soybean oil in Minnesota.”