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From rubber to rice: Goodyear debuts tire made from 70 percent sustainable material

Goodyear racing tires at the Richmond International Speedway in Richmond, Virginia, in 2017.

Goodyear racing tires at the Richmond International Speedway in Richmond, Virginia, in 2017.

Grindstone Media Group

The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company has today unveiled a demonstration tire made using with 70 percent sustainable-material content, including soy bean oil, rice husks and plastic recycled from old bottles.

The innovation saw the new tires produced using 13 ingredients that all boast significant sustainability benefits compared to conventional tires, such as carbon black captured from industrial processes and silica produced from rice husk ash, a byproduct of rice processing that is often discarded and put into landfills.

Chris Helsel, senior vice president for global operations and chief technology officer at Goodyear, said the new demonstration tire represented a major step forward for the company's efforts to slash its environmental footprint.

"We set an ambitious goal in 2020 to create a tire made 100 percent from sustainable materials in 10 years, and our scientists and engineers have made great progress toward that goal," he said. "This is an exciting achievement that demonstrates our commitment to increasing the use of sustainable materials in our tires."

The tire industry has traditionally relied on a range of high impact raw materials and energy intensive production processes, while resulting in hard to recycle end-products. But leading companies are racing to develop lower impact tires and boost recycling rates across the sector.

The use of recycled plastic fibers and silica produced from rice husk ash is expected to result reduced waste and lower environmental impacts.

Goodyear — which had planned to unveil its new tire at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week before COVID concerns forced the launch online — said the new tire should result in a significantly lower environmental footprint.

For example, the carbon black included in tires for compound reinforcement has traditionally been made by burning various types of petroleum products. But Goodyear's new tire features three carbon blacks produced from methane, carbon dioxide and plant-based oil. "Initial life cycle assessments demonstrate either reduced carbon emissions compared with current methods of carbon black production or the use of bio-based or waste feedstock sources," the company said.

The news comes just days after the US Department of Energy approved a $1 billion loan to Monolith, one of the companies Goodyear is partnering with to source black carbon produced by using renewable electricity to split natural gas into hydrogen gas and carbon black.

Similarly, the use of soybean oil in the new tires was described as a "significant innovation" that helps keep a tire's rubber compound pliable in changing temperatures.

Some environmental campaigners have raised concerns over the environmental impact of soaring global demand for soy, but Goodyear insisted that while nearly 100 percent of soy protein is used in food or animal feed applications, a significant surplus of oil is left over and available for use in industrial applications.

Finally, the use of recycled plastic fibers and silica produced from rice husk ash is expected to result reduced waste and lower environmental impacts.

The announcement comes on the same day as Goodyear also confirmed it has teamed up with autonomous vehicle specialist Starship to develop and test a custom-engineered non-pneumatic (airless) tire (NPT) to support its delivery robots.

The tire industry has traditionally relied on a range of high impact raw materials and energy intensive production processes, while resulting in hard to recycle end-products.

Starship Technologies, in which Goodyear Ventures is an investor, builds and operates a network of over 1,000 last mile autonomous robots that carry and deliver packages, groceries, and food directly to customers. 

Goodyear today revealed it has developed a specially engineered airless tire designed to extend tire life and reduce maintenance activities for Starship's zero emission delivery fleet.

The companies have entered an in-field testing phase of the project at Bowling Green State University to evaluate vehicle and tire dependencies. Early on-vehicle tire testing data has shown positive results with respect to treadwear, braking and vibration dampening, the firms said.

"We are excited to extend our unique airless tire architectures into new forms of mobility," said Michael Rachita, Goodyear's senior program manager for non-pneumatic tires. "The micro delivery space presents a different set of needs as it relates to the tire, and our NPT technology is ideal to meet those needs to help enable a maintenance-free and long-lasting experience."

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