They’re not what you think.
The future of the tire is all about sustainability, and that means moving away from using oil in tire production. Michelin, the French tire company, is moving toward using wood – and no, you won’t be able to cut down a tree and slap it onto your car axle. According to Motoring.com.au, the tire company is looking to replace key oil ingredients with wood-based ones.
The company is looking at wood chips replacing the oil-based elastomers – a polymer with the elastic properties of rubber – in the tire. Right now, 80 percent of the materials in tires come from oil. The company hopes to show the first wooden tire sometime in 2020.
The move to wood ingredients brings other benefits other than weaning a company off oil. Trees grow everywhere, making it easy for the company to source the renewable materials locally.
“We have a project working with wood chips. We will use the waste from the wood industry to create elastomers that come into tires,” Michelin’s Cyrille Roget, the worldwide director of scientific and innovation communication told the publication. “We believe it is a good solution for the future.”
Right now, the company is researching in Brazil. The company is setting up a plantation model that allows for the growing of bananas and cocoa alongside rubber. The company is also looking at 3D printing tires, which is about 10 to 15 years down the road. However new technologies could change that timeline.
“We are working with it to develop rubber printing, or polymer printing,” Roget added. “We are more in the early stages of this technology. But it needs to be industrialized and ready for the future.”
You probably won’t notice when wood-based tires become a viable product shortly. They will offer the same performance while being better for the environment all around – which sounds like a win-win situation for everyone.