Michelin has announced an ambition for all of its tires to be entirely made from renewable, recycled, bio-sourced "or otherwise sustainable" materials by 2050, with the manufacturer announcing a plan to ramp up its research, development and partnerships in pursuit of greener tire technologies.
At present Michelin claims 28 percent of the components used in its tires are made from natural, recycled or "otherwise sustainable" raw materials, but it believes that by teaming up with other firms in the supply chain and supporting R&D it deliver on its 100 percent sustainable materials goal by mid-century.
More than 200 ingredients are used to make Michelin's tires, with natural rubber making up the main component, alongside synthetic rubber, metal, fibers and tire strengthening materials such as carbon black, silica and plasticizers. As such, tire production remains an energy intensive process, while tyre use has been blamed for air and microplastic pollution. Moreover, the sector faces a well-documented recycling challenge for end of life tires.
To reach its 2050 goal, Michelin said it would continue to invest in its 6,000-strong worldwide R&D team, in addition to forging further partnerships with other firms and innovators.
The company highlighted its BioButterfly partnership with Axens and IFP Energies Nouvelles to produce bio-sourced butadiene for making synthetic rubber and its work with Canada-based Pyrowave to produce recycled polystyrene from plastic waste as examples of the kind of alliances it is seeking to build upon.
The announcement also follows news earlier in February that Michelin has teamed up with Swedish firm Enviro to build its first tire recycling plant, enabling it to recovery materials such as carbon black, pyrolysis oil, steel, gas and other reusable materials from end-of-life tires.
The company said it was "aware that the speed and nature of innovation requires new forms of cooperation, which is why it has forged partnerships with innovative start-ups whose advances offer unlimited prospects."
"The developed technologies go well beyond the world of tires and could be used in other industries, enabling them to benefit as well from recovered raw materials that are infinitely reusable," it said. "These technologies will also make it possible to recycle polystyrene and recover carbon black or pyrolysis oil from used tires."
In related news, rival tire manufacturer Bridgestone announced in late February that it has teamed up with synthetic rubber producer Arlanxeo and chemicals giant Solvay to launch a new co-developed tire technology designed to boost environmental performance.
Techsyn technology combines synthetic rubber with tailor-made silica, which the firms claim offers the tires 30 percent better wear efficiency and improved road resistance, helping to drive down the loss of materials from tires on the roads.
The Techsyn tires therefore extend the lifespan compared to average tires by up to 30 percent, reducing the consumption of materials, as well as cutting fuel consumption and CO2 emissions in the process, the firms claim.
Bridgestone said it was preparing implementation of Techsyn for mass production across various tire categories and vehicles.
Laurent Dartoux, president and CEO at Bridgestone EMIA, said "ground-breaking innovation and the future of mobility can't be achieved without collaboration."
"As a global leader in advanced solutions and sustainable mobility, we're moving forward with innovation and sustainability at the core of everything we do at Bridgestone," he added. "Through developing environmentally-driven solutions like Techsyn, we're making great progress on delivering against that ambition."