(Brownish) Green Acres

Although agriculture is not something that we ordinarily (or ever) write about here, activities that Bridgestone Americas is undertaking in the southwestern portion of the U.S. is of note:

It has invested more than $100-million in research into guayule, a woody desert shrub that grows in places where many other plants would wither, and has just announced an additional $42-million to develop the means by which there can be commercialized planting and harvesting of the shrub at scale.

No, Bridgestone is not getting into the nursey business for cacti and the like.

Rather, it is developing guayule as a source of natural rubber.

Yes, rubber that can be used to produce tires.

It made its first guayule-based tire in 2015, and as part of its continuing of its developmental work, the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix IndyCar race that was held in Nashville (home of Bridgestone Americas’ HQ) earlier this month had the tires as alternates for the race cars.

The guayule plant and a tire made with rubber from the shrub. (Image: Bridgestone Americas)

While it has a 281-acre guayule farm in Eloy, Arizona, the new investment will include working with farmers and Native American tribes to up the acreage to about 25,000 between now and 2030.

Nizar Trigui, Chief Technology Officer and Group President, Solutions Businesses, Bridgestone Americas, Inc., said, “With guayule, we can reduce the environmental impacts that come with overseas sourcing while also realizing a more sustainable agricultural system for parts of this country that are facing persistent and worsening climate conditions, so it’s really something with many benefits for our environment and our economy.”

According to Bridgestone, more than 90% of the world’s natural rubber come from para rubber tree plantations that are located in Southeast Asia. Although the trees originated in Brazil, in the early 20th century South American Leaf Blight hit the crops, which is why there was the shift to the other side of the world.

That said, turns out that white root rot disease is on the rise there, so presumably guayule is a really good idea for simply being able to make tires going forward.

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.

Something About Tires We Still Don’t Know The Meaning Of

It’s not like we’ve spent a lot (or any) time in open-pit mines. . . .

By Gary S. Vasilash

Odds are you will never be in a vehicle that uses this tire. Unless, perhaps, you drive (pilot?) something like the Caterpillar 789 dump truck, the kind of vehicle that is used in open-pit mining: It resembles a giant box (giant as in having the capacity of 177 tonnes) that is supposed by giant tires with a cab tucked up front in between.

Just the thing for 200-ton trucks. (Image: Goodyear)

According to Eric Matson, Global OTR Field Engineering Manager, Goodyear, “The 40.00R57 has become Goodyear’s dominant fitment on 200-ton trucks, such as the Caterpillar 789. With a higher TKPH and load carrying capacity, the new Goodyear RH-4A+ tire size is a great option for customers who have converted their 789 fleets to this larger tire.”

TKPH? Tonne-kilometers-per-hour. We don’t know, either.

One of the features of this tire is that it is said to provide “higher productivity in hard rock underfoot positions.”

Bet that’s not going to be your concern the next time you go out tire shopping. . . .