Michelin Tires Made from Wood? Yes–In Two Years’ Time
Ambitious? Yes. Impossible? No–not even the tiniest bit.
“It’s not a dream. We should have the first industry machine in 2020. And then the industry will ramp up from there We hope in 2020 we will be able to show the first tire made of wood,” said Cyrille Roget, Michelin’s worldwide director of scientific and innovation communication.
Michelin’s plans to replace oil in producing its tires with wood-based ingredients may seem a bit strange at first, but it actually makes a lot of sense. What they plan to do is replace the oil-based elastomers–a key polymer with the elastic properties of rubber–with wood chips.
“The elastomers from wood chips will replace the oil content in tires. 80 percent of the materials in tires are coming from oil,” explained Roget.
“We have a project working with wood chips. We will use the waste from the wood industry to create elastomers that come into tires. We believe it is a good solution for the future,” Roget added.
Michelin, which has established its research and development base in Brazil, has set up a plantation model that allows them to grow cocoa and bananas together with rubber.
Its use of wood as a renewable and sustainable alternative to oil can be traced from Biobutterfly’s program. Launched in 2012 with IFP Energies Nouvelles and Axens, their valuable research into biosourced materials have led them to create synthetic elastomers made from straw, beet, or wood.
“Trees grow everywhere. So you re-distribute the opportunity for everyone to have local sourcing. And they are renewable,” Roget added.
3D Printing and AddUp
Another ambitious goal of Michelin is to extend their tire’s lifespan by using 3D printing technology to repair and re-tread worn-out tires.
Using this type of technology allows Michelin to create 3D printed tires made from rubber compounds. What’s special about them is that they don’t need air to inflate. This allows the tires to last longer–possibly their entire lifetime.
What’s more, these printers can also “recharge” worn out treads easily so you won’t have to buy another new tire. Imagine how much you can save with this technology.
“We are working with it to develop rubber printing or polymer printing,” he explained. “We are more in the early stages of this technology. But it needs to be industrialised and ready for the future.”
Roget thinks the 3D printing technology would take a longer time to be industrialize it–probably a minimum of 15 years.
Movin’ On 2018
All these goals are part of Michelin’s Movin’ On 2018 program. It aims to manufacture 100-percent recyclable tires while using 80-percent sustainable materials by the year 2048.
It also aims to decrease their 80 percent dependence on oil to 20 percent by 2038. Their goal is to create tires with the following ratio: 20-percent petroleum-based, 30-percent recyclable, and 50-percent bio-sourced. Currently, Michelin’s tire ratio is 60-percent petroleum-based, 10-percent recyclable, and 30-percent bio-sourced.