Rubber goes au natural…
The world gets through tyres in the same way that I get through toast, which means there’s a lot of pressure on the manufacturers to come up with ever more environmentally friendly methods of producing those important bits of rubber.
Pirelli has upped the game by creating a high performance tyre that contains natural rubber from the guayule plant. Guayule typically grows in arid climates, isn’t a food crop and can be cultivated with little water and without the need to use pesticides.
Developed in just two years, Pirelli’s researchers initially studied the characteristics of the new material closely in laboratory conditions, in order to assess how this would best translate to road use. The programme then moved to the track, where the first tyres were put through their paces using a Maserati Ghibli.
Subjected to extreme usage simulations, including wet conditions, and demonstrating the same performance as the equivalent tyres made with synthetic polymers from oil-derived products, the tyres passed with flying colours.
Substituting petrochemical polymers with renewable materials is a key objective for Pirelli’s research division. Alongside development of these new biopolymers as a key ingredient in compounds, Pirelli already produces tyres that use renewable materials such as a silica obtain from rice husks.
The research is part of a development programme to incorporate guayale usage throughout industry, starting with experimental crop growing in southern Europe.
“The track testing phase of our guayale rubber tyres has been more than positive,” explaind Fabrizio Sanvito, project management and technical benchmark at Pirelli. “The choice of a high-performance car to carry out these tests was dictated by the need to place the biggest possible demands on the tyres and extract the most meaningful results. After the success of this first phase, we are now assessing the possibility of trying out these prototype tyres in winter conditions.”