You could see tires in the future made from rubber from a domestic plant rather than the traditional rubber tree, as a five-year study led by Cooper Tire & Rubber showed good results for passenger tires.
Guayule, a shrub grown in the U.S. Southwest, contains a type of rubber that can be processed to use in tires. Cooper worked with a consortium of researchers with a five-year grant to study the feasibility of using guayule in tires rather than Hevea natural rubber, sourced primarily from Southeast Asia.
The team created more than 450 concept tires made entirely of guayule and put them through extensive evaluation, including rigorous wheel and road tests, and says the tires were found to have overall performance at least as good as tires made with Hevea and synthetic rubber. And they performed significantly better in rolling resistance, wet handling and wet braking, according to Cooper.
“Based on our findings, Cooper could use guayule rubber in tire production tomorrow if enough material was available to meet our production needs at a competitive price. To make this happen, the combined effort of government, agriculture and industry is needed to grow the plants and create large-scale manufacturing operations to product the rubber for use in the tire industry.”
In addition, consortium member Clemson University reported on a life cycle analysis on the environmental impact of producing tires from guayule and found 6% to 30% lower emissions.
In addition to Cooper and Clemson, the consortium included Cornell University, PanAridus (which supplied the raw material guayule rubber), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s research arm. The grant was from the USDA and the U.S. Department of Energy.