Bridgestone innovates with… Guayule desert shrubs for new rubber tyres?

Bridgestone innovates with… Guayule desert shrubs for new rubber tyres?

In a bid to achieve carbon neutrality and 100 per cent renewable tires by 2050, Bridgestone is gunning on an unorthodox ingredient for its new tyres.

Guayule is an evergreen desert shrub that is found in the arid zones of southwestern parts of the United States and Northern Mexico. This plant, whilst looking unassuming, actually contains a rubber constituent very similar to the kind found in traditional para rubber trees.

Therefore, Bridgestone has begun investing in this new discovery as a new source of environmentally sustainable natural rubber. 

Seriously, a shrub?

Don’t count this little plant out just yet. Guayule can be farmed easily with existing harvesting equipment, hence it’s seen as cost-saving for farmers. It also requires much less water and is easily obtainable. So far so good. 

Not wasting any time, Bridgestone has since sunk in more than USD$100 million into guayule R&D. This cost is not just for the guayule though, as some of it will be diverted to researching environmentally friendly solutions for end-of-life tyres, or finding alternatives for non-renewable materials in the production of new tyres.

So how does it work exactly?

Since it works in a different way, guayule is actually more complex to manufacture. The plant goes through a series of processes consisting of grinding up the whole plant, solvent extraction and impurity removal, in order to produce natural rubber.

Even though this process is technically more complex than current means of natural rubber production, it is still both cheaper and faster to produce compared to traditional para rubber trees. To harvest the shrub, Bridgestone will collaborate with local U.S. farmers and Native American tribes. This partnership will help increase yield by up to 25,000 additional acres of arable farmland.

Bridgestone also intends to invest an additional USD$42 million to establish commercial operations and expansions planned for 2030.

Has it been successful?

This may seem like new technology, but Bridgestone has already made prototype tyres in the past. The company first produced a tyre made from guayule-derived natural rubber back in 2015.

This material has gone on to debut in racing as well, being a component of Firestone’s Firehawk race tyres first introduced at the Indy 500 Pit Stop Challenge, which happened this year in May.

By the turn of the new year, Bridgestone is targeting to have 350 new acres of guayule planted. Come 2030, it aims to bring this new material into the mainstream with sustainable commercial production.

Check out more exciting pertaining to tyres right here at AUTA!

Sean Loo

Posts Carousel

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Latest Posts

Most Commented