French tyre-maker Michelin has revealed plans to use wood to make tyres from as early as 2020.
Rather than timber treads carved by wheelwrights, this will be the work of scientists, with the wood used as an alternative to expensive and not-so environmentally friendly oil-based synthetics, across the Michelin range.
Synthetic elastomer is artificial rubber that’s combined with the real thing in modern tyre compounds, to increase durability, flexibility and grip, explains Michelin’s worldwide head of science and innovation communication Cyrille Roget.
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“We have a project that is called Bio Butterfly that we are in partnership in France and we are trying to create sustainable synthetic elastomer … using the chip waste from the wood industry, Roget told WhichCar.
“At the beginning [wood content] will be small, about two percent, basically to replace some of the [oil-based] synthetic elastomer. It will be small, but we’ll be able to increase it.”
Roget says the switch to a wooden by-product will have a range of benefits, including a reduced reliance on oil-based butadiene and the opportunity for Michelin manufacturing plants around the world to source alternative raw materials locally.
“We hope that in 30 years tyres will have 80 percent material recycled and renewable, made from wood, some natural rubber and recycled material.”
“Natural rubber is still a key ingredient, because it has some performance that we are not able to reproduce.”
Michelin is also investigating the viability of other organic materials such as straw and beets, to create its products.