Circularity factors big in Goodyear’s ‘sustainable’ tires

This posting was tailored for Mobility Weekly, our no cost weekly e-newsletter. Sign-up for a membership right here.

Even nevertheless quite a few COVID-skittish providers opted out of traveling to Las Vegas previous week to the annual Customer Electronics Present, there was no scarcity of mobility innovation on screen each on The Strip and virtually — from BMW’s shade-morphing idea automobile to a gazillion electric bikes to John Deere’s completely autonomous tractor. Just one author named CES the most effective show for new automotive technological innovation in years.

I nonetheless haven’t figured out why tractors are considered consumer goods, but I digress. And as I learned very long ago, innovation doesn’t have to be flashy to be impactful.

Acquire tires, 1 of the most underappreciated topics when it will come to sustainable mobility. They are central to improving upon the fuel financial system and performance of vehicles and cars employing interior combustion engines — only adjusting the air tension does wonders for gasoline economic climate. But how are they remaining advanced to accommodate electrical autos? And, much more crucial, what is the automotive field accomplishing about all those people significant, black circular hunks of all-natural rubber, petroleum, steel, nylon, polyester, silica and other elements that are no for a longer period roadworthy?

As I reported final year, the U.S. by itself discards a thing like 6 billion lbs of tires on a yearly basis. Some of that content is obtaining its way back into other tires by round manufacturing processes, but a ton of it is burned or turned into matters this kind of as surfaces for playgrounds. 

Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. was front and middle final 7 days with one thing to say about all of these subject areas. The centerpiece of its news was a demonstration tire (indicating that it is being highway-tested by the corporation) that is made of 70 percent sustainable components — its goal is to get to 100 percent by 2030. For standpoint, most tires on the market nowadays are manufactured with 25-30 p.c sustainable materials. 

What the heck does that indicate in basic English? I’m not a tire engineer, but 1 big aim for Goodyear is basically lowering the amount of money of unsustainable content — primarily virgin petroleum and polyester — and obtaining practical replacements. In case of the tire it is testing, there are quite a few components of unique observe:

  • A few new forms of carbon black that are built out of carbon dioxide, methane or plant-primarily based oils
  • Leftover soybean oil from food items/agricultural programs
  • Silica established from rice husk ash, a byproduct of rice output that normally finds its way into landfills
  • Polyester manufactured from recycled plastic bottles and other waste

What do all of the above have in typical? They are highly dependent on circular economy procedures and, by association, on provide chains that you would not typically associate with a tire company.

Ellis Jones, vice president and main sustainability officer at Goodyear, instructed me that a person of the largest issues when deciding on new products for tires is balancing the overall performance and basic safety elements with sustainable small business factors. The enterprise is currently using soybean oil in its professional portfolio, which include its WeatherReady all-period tire. That line is regarded to be 1 of the most effective-doing tires on the sector, Jones reported, and Goodyear is starting off to market some of the sustainability aspects. The rice husk silica also factors in some products and solutions. 

As other sustainability experts can value, nevertheless, each and every content decision or change will come with sourcing factors. Does making use of soybean oil for automotive apps, for example, build troubles for the food items process? Will land be converted to mature the beans or is there a substantial more than enough offer of squander oil? When it comes to rice husks, will this generate an unsustainable reliance on resources in Asia-Pacific countries? “The obstacle is generating a source chain that is feasible and resilient,” Jones instructed me.

To that conclude, it’s value noting that Goodyear is by now performing on an substitute source for carbon black — a material built from the combustion of residual oil or coal tar oil that typically accounts for 15-20 percent of the “typical” customer tire by body weight. In December, it introduced a relationship with Monolith, a producer of carbon black processed from methane. A daily life cycle evaluation touted by the company suggests that switching to this source would consequence in a reduction of carbon emissions for that individual product. 

By the way, Goodyear considers the purely natural rubber in its tires to be a sustainable materials, supplied modifications manufactured to its procurement plan back in 2018. The firm is portion of the 16-year-previous Tire Industry Task, a discussion board of the Planet Council for Sustainable Business Progress that signifies about 65 per cent of the world’s tire producing potential. 

Going airless

Apart from its sustainable supplies thrust, Goodyear is letting the air out of some of its new tires, literally — something that Michelin started talking up a couple of decades in the past with its Uptis engineering. News about this venture emerged late past year, but Goodyear officially declared a non-pneumatic products created for a enterprise in its venture portfolio, Starship Systems. 

Starship operates autonomous robots that produce packages and foodstuff door to door the notion is being tested at Bowling Inexperienced Point out College in Akron, Ohio. Why airless? This strategy is found as acquiring advantages for treadwear, braking eventualities and also for reducing vibrations (who requirements scrambled eggs in advance of they even make it to your doorstep?).

The other huge area exactly where airless tires could play a substantial part is on EVs. It is really worth noting that the test vehicle for the Goodyear movie that surfaced in November was from Tesla and Michelin’s preliminary examination fleet for Uptis had been electrical automobiles from Standard Motors. When I chatted with Goodyear’s Jones last 7 days, he mentioned the weight of EVs provides a further dimension of complexity — the rolling resistance and torque dynamics are incredibly various. There’s also the matter of how a lot noise a tire generates, in particular think about that EVs are commonly quieter than gasoline-run cars. “All those are the functionality envelopes we are developing for,” he stated.

Goodyear released its first EV substitute tire for North The us in December, the ElectricDrive GT. It expects to have additional EV tires on the highway later this yr.

[Want more great analysis of electric and sustainable transport? Sign up for Mobility Weekly, our free email newsletter.]