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Wooden tyres with renewable tread

Wooden tyres don’t have the best ring to them, but Michelin firmly believes they’ll be a reality in 2020. The French tyre maker told Motoring of its plans to introduce wood into tyres, and it’s all about moving away from oil. Cyrille Roget, Michelin’s worldwide director of scientific and innovation communication, said the plan was to create more sustainable tyres in the future, and experiments with wood waste had provided a solution. Sources: Timberbiz, Motoring

The tyre maker will incorporate elastomers from wood chips to replace a tyre’s oil content. Today, 80% of materials found in tyres come from oil. In the future, that percentage will drop to 20% by 2048, Michelin believes. And rubber will also be included, which Roget said is also sustainable.

“Trees grow everywhere. So, you re-distribute the opportunity for everyone to have local sourcing. And they are renewable,” Mr Roget said.

Much further into the future, Michelin not only foresees tyres made from wood, but also a single set of tyres for a car’s lifetime. The company believes one day that 3D printing will revolutionize the tyre process. Where today drivers must physically change tyres after the tread wears down, 3D printers could conceivably “recharge” tread. In layman terms, a 3D printer would print new tread when the tread eroded to an unsafe level.

Mr Roget even pictured a day when an electric car charging station also includes a 3D printer to “recharge” tyre tread.

3D-printed tyres are further down the line, perhaps 15 years at minimum, Mr Roget said, but Michelin hopes to show its first tyre made from wood in less than two years.

And, while still on the topic of tyres, waste tyres could be used in road surfaces after new specifications for Crumbed Rubber Modified (CRM) asphalt were developed recently by the Australian Asphalt Pavement Association (AAPA) and Tyre Stewardship Australia (TSA).

Based on those used in California and Arizona, the new specifications have been used to develop CRM gap graded asphalt trialled in the Gold Coast in June – the first trials of such asphalt in Australia.

If the gap graded asphalt and open graded asphalt and for crumbed rubber spray seal make it into production, they could eventually see about 10% of the accessible feedstock for tyre-derived crumb rubber produced in Australia used in domestic road manufacturing.

This would be twice the current use of recycled crumb rubber and equate to the consumption of nearly 4 million end-of life tyres per year.