By Salma Florencio, Fleet Operations Clerk

In an era where electric and hybrid vehicles are leading the charge towards a sustainable future in transportation, an innovative newcomer is rolling through the automotive industry: soy tires.

Goodyear launched a unique new type of tire in 2017. This was the industry’s first commercially available soy tire, replacing a percentage of the petroleum-based oil with soybean oil in the rubber compound. Through extensive research, Goodyear’s chief engineer, Bob Woloszynek, found that soybean oil mixes easily with the rubber compounds. In addition to improvements in production, the pliability of the tire improved as well, which is important for wet road conditions. The more pliable it is, the better a tire sticks to the road. In an effort to continue their commitment to sustainability, Goodyear has set a goal for themselves to completely eliminate petroleum-based oils by 2040.

Photo of a Goodyear Soy Tire on a Madison Police Car
Goodyear's Eagle Enforcer Soy Tire on an MPD Squad Car

Just like Goodyear, City of Madison Fleet is always looking for new ways to contribute to our sustainability goals, and we began to look into this new innovation. After research and consultation, we made the decision to test the soy tires out on real Fleet vehicles. The decision to officially launch these soy tires came easily according to Operations Manager, Randy Koch, who oversees Fleet’s parts department. The tires were tested on a variety of vehicles, but the decision to employ the tires officially came after the Police K-9 units tested them after a 6-inch snowstorm. The positive response from the officers contributed to putting these tires on the road. The tires had good traction and felt stable even in heavy snow, and made their debut on Madison roads in April 2019. Since then, we have installed 1466 soy tires across our fleet, most notably in our Police department.

Picture of a soybean field
Soybean Field

Unlike petroleum, soybean oil is a renewable resource, which means it can be replenished naturally. Mining for petroleum contributes to the pollution of carbon emissions and other dangerous greenhouse gases. The transition from using petroleum-based tires to soy tires not only helps the City of Madison reach its sustainability goals, it helps on a larger scale by decreasing our reliance on nonrenewable resources. It demonstrates how larger companies and fleets can use more sustainable products while still getting the job done. Just as importantly, purchasing soybean tires helps support the economy of Midwestern states where soybean farming takes place, including Wisconsin.

From adding more EVs to our fleet, more solar panels to our facilities and EV charging operations, to implementing biodiesel fueling, the addition of soy tires into our fleet is just one of many ways we are aiming for a sustainable future in transportation. Our efforts so far have helped our fleet become one of the greenest in the country, and we are always looking for new ways to lead the charge against climate change and become a resource for other fleets.

This content is free for use with credit to the City of Madison - Fleet Service and a link back to the original post.