Conti Goes Renewable for Tire Concept

Yes, even reused water bottles make the mixture

By Gary S. Vasilash

Tires are made of lots of materials. Yes, there is natural rubber. And synthetic rubber.

There are carbon black and silica.

There are cables, both metal and textile.

And there are various chemicals added for good measure.

Continental has developed what is says is a considerably more sustainable tire, one that has more than 50% of its materials being traceable, renewable and recycled.

There are lots of organic materials, including the natural rubber from dandelions (not necessarily the ones you have in your lawn, but similar), silicate from rice husks, and vegetable oils from, well, vegetables rather than petroleum products from prehistoric plant matter and sea creatures.

Conti’s clever “green” tire. (Image: Continental)

Thirty-five percent of the Conti GreenConcept tire (yes, this is still conceptual; you can’t get one—yet) consists of renewable raw materials.

Then there are recycled materials, which account for about 17% of the tire. Things like the polyester recovered from PET bottles—bottles that are used for soda and water.

Another clever aspect of the tire is that it is lighter than a comparable conventional one. This helps lower the rolling resistance, and that means that less energy is necessary to turn the tires. This can mean as much of an improvement of 6% in the range of an electric vehicle.

(It knows a little more than a little about EVs as it has its tires on EVs from companies ranging from Audi to Vinfast—and, yes, Tesla.)

According to Continental CEO Nikolai Setzer, “Continental will completely convert its global tire production to the use of sustainable materials by 2050 at the latest.”

While that might seem like a long time, they’ve been making tires for some 150 years, so it is relative.

BMW Goes Circular

No, not the roundel logo. The way it is conceiving and building its vehicles

By Gary S. Vasilash

When people think/talk about environmentally appropriate vehicles, the tendency is to talk about the tailpipe—or the lack thereof.

That is, an electric car (no tailpipe) or a fuel-cell-powered car (which has an exhaust to let the water vapor escape) is seen to be good because it is an electric car or a fuel-cell-powered car. (Trucks and SUVs can be used in place of “car.”)

But what somehow gets overlooked is the fact that there is a heck of a lot more to a motor vehicle than the type of propulsion system that it uses.

There is all of that other “stuff” that goes into making a vehicle.

BMW i Vision Circular (Image: BMW)

Things like the chassis and the body panels. The steering wheel and the seats. The carpet on the floor and the headliner on the ceiling.

And so on.

The production of these things has an effect on the lifecycle emissions of a given vehicle.

Sure, the use of the vehicle has a huge impact on the vehicle’s effect on the environment.

So while it is not exactly a leader in the electric vehicle space, which is leading some people to raise an eyebrow, credit to BMW for introducing a concept vehicle at the IAA Mobility 2021 event (what used to be known as “the Frankfurt show” until it was moved, this year, to Munich) that has an absolute basis in sustainability.

It is called the “BMW I Vision Circular.”

“Vision,” I suppose, because this is something that is for 2040.

“Circular” because the vehicle is entirely developed and built using principles of the circular economy, as in it is built with 100% recycled materials and 100% of those materials can be recycled again.

Even the battery for this electric vehicle, a solid-state battery (of course, although BMW is working on this technology, it is still a ways off for production vehicles, but works quite well in a one-off concept) is designed to be recycled.

While recycled materials have generally thought of as having a premium price, BMW chief Oliver Zipse made an interesting observation: “the current trend in commodity prices clearly shows the financial consequences in store for any industry that is reliant on finite resources.”

Environmental Stats

Sure, U.S. voters don’t like greenhouse gases. But others ought to dislike them more and do something about it

By Gary S. Vasilash

While cars and trucks are certainly not the only contributors to noxious emissions, they provide more than a minimal amount, to understate the case. Wildly.

So with that in mind, it is interesting to look at some of the stats from a survey conducted by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication.

The survey was conducted among registered voters in the U.S. from March 18 to 29, 2021.

Among the findings:

  • 61% think the U.S. should reduce its greenhouse gas emissions regardless of whether other countries do or not
  • 65% think the U.S. should be doing more to address global warming
  • 71% think other industrialized countries—as in England, Germany and Japan—should be doing more to address global warming.

And there you have it: Someone else should do more to take care of the problem.