Research has shown that soybean oil-based tire tread lasts 10-percent longer than its traditional counterpart, and that it blends better during the manufacturing process too, which according to the press blurb will “improve plant efficiency and reduce energy consumption.”
The automotive industry is a huge consumer of rubber products — accounting for more than 50-percent worldwide according to one study — so it’s in its own interest to find more eco-friendly alternatives.
Ford and Yokohama
Goodyear isn’t the first to experiment with soybean oil, as Ford has been using it for years, including in the construction of the legendary “soybean car” from the 1940s. More relevantly, in 2008, the Mustang came with seats filled with soy-based foam, plus a variety of vehicles from the F-150 to the Taurus now all use seals and gaskets made, in part, from soy oil.
It’ll probably come as no surprise to find that the United Soybean Board is helping out with funding on both these projects, granting Goodyear alone $500,000 over two years.
Soybean oil, for all its apparent benefits, isn’t the only game in town though, as Yokohama already produces tires that use an oil extracted from orange peel in its tread.
The very Japanese-sounding dB Super E-spec tire is an option for some hybrid cars, while the Avid Ascends are available for all cars, plus the company produces a race version called the Advan ENV-R2. Yokohama says its Super Nano-Power Rubber Compound (yes, really) has 80-percent less petroleum rubber than a conventional tire, and provides improved grip and lower rolling resistance.
A more expensive tire?
The Goodyear soybean oil tire will go on display at Ford’s research center in Michigan next month, but the company has yet to say how much a set will cost when they go on sale.
We can look at Yokohama’s dB Super E-spec and Avid Ascend tires to get an idea of how much more expensive they’ll be over a regular tire though. According to tirerack.com, a set of four 215/60/R16 Super E-Specs are $712, while a set of Avid Ascends in the same size are only $448. As a comparison, the cheapest option in that size from Yokohama are the Avid Touring-S tires for $340.
So, provided you go for the Avid Ascends, it’s not all that different and as new, green technology is usually more expensive than its less eco-friendly alternative, the price difference is only to be expected. If the price of the Goodyear soybean oil tire is any higher though, adoption may suffer.
The Goodyear soybean oil tires should go on sale in 2015.