Global giant hails ‘significant progress’ towards goal of delivering 100 per cent sustainable-material tire by 2030

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

The innovation saw the new tyres produced using 13 different ingredients that all boast significant sustainability benefits compared to conventional tyres, 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 tyre 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 per cent 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 tyre 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 now racing to develop lower impact tyres and boost recycling rates across the sector.

Goodyear – which had planned to unveil its new tyre at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week before COVID concerns forced the launch online – said the new tyre 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 different carbon blacks that are 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 $1bn loan to Monolith, one of the company’s 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 tyres was described as a “significant innovation” that helps keep a tyre’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 per cent of soy protein is used in food/animal feed applications, a significant surplus of oil is left over and available for use in industrial applications.

Finally, the use of recycled plastic fibres 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. 

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 now 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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