Within 5 Years, Tires Could be Made From Sugar Cane, Corn, or Switchgrass Instead of Oil
Photo: Flickr, CC
The Greenest Tire is No Tire, But if That's Not Possible...
According to the Rubber Manufacturers Association trade group, it takes about 7 gallons of oil to make 1 car tire (the oil is turned into isoprene), and 1 billion of them are made each year. But this could change within about 5 years thanks to research done by Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. and the biotechnology company Genencor. They're working on ways to make bio-isoprene using plants like sugar cane, corn, or switchgrass, thus potentially reducing the environmental impact of the tire industry (they could also improve by using clean energy to power their factories, reducing waste, and making low-rolling resistance tires that last longer).
Photo: Flickr, CC
How to Make Rubber from Plants?
The way they're doing it is with a genetically modified bacteria that munches on the sugars contained in the plants, and it converts them to bio-isoprene. The resulting tires should perform just as well and last just as long as oil-based tires, and they could eventually be made even better, according to Richard J. LaDuca, Genencor's senior director.
Of course, if this way to create rubber becomes cost competitive, tires are only one of the markets where it could replace oil-based products.
On a related note, if you have a car, make sure that your tires are inflated properly. You'll save gas and the tires will last longer.
More Green(er) Transportation
Big Victory for Clean Air! Emission Control Area Created Around U.S. and Canadian Coastlines
L.A. Street Summit 2010: Biking, Walking & Beyond (Video)
This is Important: What Would 1 Million Electric Cars do to the Grid?