Sustainability is at the heart of disruptive transformation across the automotive industry. Its pursuit, whether in the form of vehicle electrification or circular economy practices, is driving change across the entire ecosystem.
Among the most prominent signs of the focus on sustainability has been the switch from internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles to battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid EVs (PHEVs). Beyond OEMs, tire manufacturers are also playing a key role in the transition. Leading tire manufacturer Bridgestone has developed specialized EV tires – the Alenza – for BMW’s all-electric iX. The ultra-low resistance tires leverage Bridgestone’s lightweight ENLITEN technology which, according to the company, allows for an almost 20% reduction in tire rolling resistance and weight. This translates to lowered overall vehicular weight and, by extension, improved range. It, therefore, addresses one of the key challenges in the transition to EVs – range anxiety. In addition, the use of a unique material compound and special tread pattern are designed to enhance EV performance.
Sustainability and the Automotive Industry
Today, EVs and hybrids are the most obvious reflection of a green agenda. Environmental considerations also underpin the increase of ridesharing and carsharing services and the expanding use of alternatives to plastics, rubber, and leather. For instance, sulfur, cooking oil, and waste materials are being explored to manufacture self-healing rubbers in tires.
Circular economy practices are another key aspect of the push towards sustainability. A good example of this is BMW’s i Vision Circular, a sustainable manufacturing initiative that is centered around the core principles of rethink, reduce, reuse, recycle and embeds sustainability across the product value chain. The i Vision initiative, for instance, embraces the manufacture of seats and tires using wire assembly and quick-release fasteners. This makes the process modular and cleaves to circular economy practices. Moreover, the use of 3D printing, secondary material usage, and refined surfaces lower material wastage in the manufacturing process, promoting a circular economy.
For more information on the EV ecosystem and sustainability in the automotive industry, please access our research reports: Strategic Analysis of the Automotive Circular Economy, European PHEV/BEV Aftermarket Growth Opportunities, Global Electric Vehicles Outlook, 2022, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for information on a private briefing.
Sustainability and EV Tire Manufacturers
There is now increasing understanding of the benefits offered by tires custom engineered for EVs. Firstly, EV tires have lower rolling resistance technology that allows for better battery efficiency and increased driving range. Secondly, the weight of battery packs means that EVs tend to be considerably heavier – anywhere from between 10%-30%, although it is steadily reducing – than conventional fuel powered equivalents, with much of the weight borne by tires. EV tires, therefore, are developed to be more robust and have a high load index to be able to carry the extra weight of the vehicle and its passengers. Thirdly, EV tires use advanced compounds that are geared towards improving efficiency and durability. Fourthly, tire design and structure facilitate improved stability and handling to enable the higher torque, instant acceleration, and rapid braking associated with EVs. Finally, special tread patterns and cutting-edge material compounds help in noise reduction, mitigate wear and tear, and prolong tire life. In many cases, EV tire manufacture also consciously attempts to use fewer raw materials. In short, EV tires support performance optimization along with resource responsible use, accelerating EV adoption.
Tire companies – and not just from an EV standpoint – are crucial partners in the automotive industry’s overall shift towards sustainability. Bridgestone, for instance, has the “Bridgestone E8 Commitment” spanning Energy, Ecology, Efficiency, Extension, Economy, Emotion, Ease, and Empowerment as part of its commitment to realize carbon neutral mobility and sustainable tire technologies and solutions. Michelin’s VISION concept is driven by its mission of using 100% sustainable materials by 2050. Blending highly advanced technology with recycled and biosourced materials, the company is working to reduce the environmental footprint of its tires and incorporate them into a circular economy framework. Goodyear has set itself the objective of creating tires with 100% sustainable materials by 2030. It recently unveiled a prototype tire with 70% sustainable-material content using innovative ingredients like soyabean oil, polyester recycled from plastic bottles, and silica produced from rice husk ash, a discarded byproduct of rice processing. It has also designed tires that incorporate living moss in the tire’s sidewalls that absorb carbon dioxide from the air and release oxygen. BMW’s I Vision’s circular economy push has led it to explore vivid blue rubber, a recycled rubber material that improves the lifetime and reusability of tires.
Much like in the rest of the automotive industry, therefore, EV tire manufacturers are looking at sustainability in a holistic manner covering sustainable materials, design, and processes. Sustainable processes, including closed-loop recycling, will be crucial as, globally, at least a billion tires reach their end-of-life (EOL) each year. In March 2022, Pyrum signed an agreement with a subsidiary of Continental to procure EOL tires, which will be converted into raw materials for producing new tires.
Sustainability and Profits
Sustainability is not only about the environment, but also about economics. Even as EV tire manufacturers work to minimize their environmental footprint, they are also looking to drive revenue growth opportunities from burgeoning EV adoption. Frost & Sullivan estimates global EV sales to cross 11.1 million by the end of 2022. Both in North America and Europe, rising EV uptake is motivating customers to shift towards long-lasting, safer, more efficient EV tires.
“By the end of 2030, as per the latest Frost & Sullivan analysis, there could be 51 million PHEV/BEVs in Europe, growing at a CAGR of 27% between 2022 and 2030. If barriers to adoption, such as range anxiety, are overcome along the way, this trajectory might become even steeper. Bridgestone’s most recent introduction of tires for the BMW iX vehicle could prove to be a step in that direction.” – Anuj Monga, Associate Director
Across the automotive industry, disruption is brewing. If Bridgestone’s latest offering and that of its counterparts in the tire industry is any indication, it is a paradigm-shifting transformation towards sustainability and circular economy models.
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