Nikkei. Sumitomo Rubber Industries has developed and will launch next year a specialty tire made with a smaller-than-usual proportion of synthetic rubber, which is made from petroleum.
Approximately 55% of the material in a conventional tire, including synthetic rubber and other polymers, is petroleum-derived. The new Sumitomo tire drops this down to around 30%.
According to the Rubber Manufacturers Association, a typical passenger car tire contains approximately 14% natural rubber and 27% synthetic rubber.
Sumitomo Rubber roughly halved the share of synthetic rubber used in the tire. It also increased the share of a genetically engineered natural rubber, which is made from the latex sap of the rubber tree.
To date, according to Sumitomo, maintaining tire performance when increasing the share of natural rubber has been difficult. Sumitomo Rubber employed genetic engineering technology to alter the molecular structure of the rubber tree’s latex sap, making the structure closer to that of synthetic rubber.
The firm will market the tire toward environmentally conscious consumers. It will begin sales March 1, 2006, through mass retailers and other routes, selling the product for use on hybrid vehicles. The company, which has developed three versions of the tire, will aim for first-year sales of 20,000 units.