July 24, 2012 at 4:08 PM ET
Those car tires you kick someday may be made from soybeans.
Goodyear is working on tires made at least partially of soybean oil instead of petroleum-based oil. In addition to reducing Goodyear's petroleum consumption for tires, soy-oil tires have longer tread life and may reduce Goodyear factories' energy use, the company said.
Goodyear researchers have found the treads on the new tires last 10 percent longer. The tires require less energy to make at the factory because soy-made rubber blends more readily into the tire.
A synthetic rubber tire contains about 5 gallons of petroleum-based oil, according to the Rubber Manufacturers Assocation, but Goodyear doesn't say how much of that will get replaced by soybean oil. The company does say it thinks the new tires may reduce its petroleum consumption by as much as 7 million gallons a year. That's about as much petroleum as 8,000 American drivers might use in a year, as calculated from data from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Argonne National Laboratory and the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Goodyear is now building prototypes and testing them. The final product may show up in stores as early as 2015.
The Goodyear research is partially funded by the United Soybean Board, which is contributing $500,000 over two years.
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