Sustainability trends and government regulation driving green tire development
The green tire industry, composed of low rolling resistance (LRR) tires as well as those emerging from ‘green’ (sustainable) materials, is a fast-growing part of the tire industry. The rapid growth of the sector is partly due to growth in the tire market itself, but mainly due to society’s increased interest in sustainability.
The global green tire market is estimated by Smithers Rapra to be $81.6 billion in 2018, which would put it at around 38% of the global tire industry as a whole. Smithers’ Future of Green Tires to 2023 market report forecasts growth of nearly 11% per year in value and volume through 2023, when value will reach $137 billion.
Green tire market high level forecast by value 2013-2023
Sustainable tire technologies
The main driver of the global tire market is the growing middle classes and the resulting increase in vehicle ownership in the emerging economies, particularly Asia. Growing concerns about greenhouse gas emissions and the limited availability of natural resources to meet the demands of expanding numbers of consumers are forcing industry to meet government and market demands for more sustainable products like green tires.
As a result, tire makers are pressing forward with sustainable tire technologies, including use of renewable rubbers that perform equal or better than traditional rubber. Many tire makers have entered strategic partnerships with government, researchers and bio technologies companies to advance their efforts to develop renewable rubber on a commercial scale.
Government regulations and economic drivers
Drivers of adoption of green tires are regulatory with increasing pressure on vehicle makers to reduce vehicle emissions and meet rising fuel economy targets. This pressure is driving development of LLR tires and their growing OE market penetration. Growth of alternative vehicle powertrains (hybrid and electric), as well as the evolution to shared/fleet vehicle use, and autonomous vehicles are pushing green tire adoption with continued gains in rolling resistance reduction a requirement.
The replacement market for green tires has also grown through better consumer education and awareness provided by the European Union’s consumer tire labelling scheme that rates tire rolling resistance and other performance variables.
Key materials for green tires
Green tires are optimized to achieve the lowest possible rolling resistance by means of fillers such as highly dispersible silica (HD silica or HDS), improved carbon blacks or nanotechnology. HD silicas are playing an important role in green tire material consumption, but improvements in elastomers (e.g. functionalized) and fillers (carbon black) and other inputs such as oils and fabrics are also important.
Rising in tandem with green tire unit demand, raw materials consumption for green tires demand is estimated at over 17.8 million tons in 2018, growing to 29 million in 2023, according to Smithers Rapra’s “Future of Green Tires to 2023” market report. Elastomers, fillers and fabrics are the dominant categories by weight, and growth will be led by sustainable ones such as natural rubber and rayon fabric, with synthetic rubbers showing the least growth.
Green tire market materials consumption 2013-2023 by volume (‘000 tons)
Biobased rubber for greener tires
Biosourcing of synthetic rubbers and other ingredients, the expansion of natural rubber availability, and biological alternatives to natural rubber are key areas of attention too. In the area of biorubber, Cooper Tire and Rubber and its consortium partners, including Clemson University, Cornell University, PanAridus and the Agricultural Research Service of the US Department of Agriculture, completed a five-year $6.9 million Biomass R&D Initiative (BRDI) grant called “Securing the Future of Natural Rubber—an American Tire and Bioenergy Platform from Guayule” in 2017.
The grant team studied the feasibility of using guayule in tires versus Hevea natural rubber and produced concept passenger car tires in which all natural and synthetic rubber was replaced by guayule-based natural rubber. Cooper says it could use guayule rubber in tire production tomorrow if enough material was available to meet its production needs at a competitive price.
The electric and autonomous vehicle market
Hybrid and electric vehicles are a natural market fit for green tires. Besides being naturally aligned, the requirements of these vehicles, such as high torque and acceleration, and the need for maximized energy efficiency to extend battery range, will increasingly place demands on tire makers. Drivers of these vehicles are also more likely to stay with LRR tires when replacing them, regardless of price.
Tire development for autonomous vehicles will be increasingly focused on reduced rolling resistance and high reliability. There will be closer attention paid to non-pneumatic and intelligent tire options that eliminate or manage tire pressure and reliability issues.
There are other aspects of the green tire market that make it attractive, as well as challenging. The availability and pricing of natural, synthetic and biosourced materials can be unpredictable, and it is not clear how quickly many of the greener technology options can progress from concepts and pilots to commercial scale.
All of the major tire companies are committed to green tires, although rates of market uptake vary depending on local regulations and preferences. The drive to reduce emissions, improve fuel efficiency and accommodate new transportation models is shared by governments and tire companies alike.
For more information from Smithers Rapra on the green tire market, visit https://www.smithersrapra.com/market-reports/tire-industry-market-reports/green-tires-to-2023.