The Firestone Firehawk guayule race tyre made its on-track debut in the United States in 2022. The tyre’s latest outing took place at the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix on the streets of Nashville in August, in another milestone in the efforts of Firestone and the NTT Indycar Series to promote sustainability. This new, eco-friendly tyre first debuted in May during the Ruoff Mortgage Pit Stop Challenge on Race Week of the 106th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge. It is partially composed of a new sustainable natural rubber derived from the guayule shrub, which requires less reharvesting than traditional sources of rubber.
With an additional US$42 million investment, Bridgestone Americas plans to commercialise its activities with guayule, a desert shrub that offers an alternative source of natural rubber. The aim is sustainable commercial production of guayule-derived natural rubber by the end of the decade.
Today is a big day for the Bridgestone team tasked with developing tyres containing natural rubber derived from the guayule desert shrub. An all-new Firestone race tyre with a sidewall made with this rubber makes its competition debut at this weekend’s IndyCar Series racing in Nashville, USA.
Several tyre makers plan to offer tyres containing natural rubber from non-conventional sources. Bridgestone Americas has been working to commercialise guayule shrub rubber for a decade and recently announced the upcoming motorsport debut of a race tyre made with guayule rubber grown and extracted at its R&D facilities. It will introduce the new Firestone Firehawk at the Indy Pit Stop Challenge on 27 May ahead of the race tyre’s competitive premiere in August.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Joint Genome Institute has awarded Bridgestone Americas a research grant to advance its optimisation of guayule, a drought resistant, desert shrub that shows promise as a local source of natural rubber for tyre production. Bridgestone has spent more than a decade researching guayule rubber for use in tyres.
Bridgestone Corporation reports it has developed a new technology for improving the rubber productivity of guayule plants. It worked on this technology in a joint development project with Kirin Holdings Company, Limited, a company perhaps better known for beer and other beverages.
The dream of securing natural rubber supplies in the vicinity of production facilities and reducing dependency upon hevea rubber plantations has preoccupied Bridgestone Corporation for the past decade. Early in 2018 it announced a collaboration with genomic big data company NRGene to advance the commercialisation of guayule, and today Bridgestone shared the results of this four-year project. The combined effort has resulted in the partners successfully assembling a specific guayule genome.
Bridgestone Americas (Bridgestone) and NRGene, a genomic big data solutions company, are collaborating on research efforts to enhance the company’s US alternative domestic natural rubber breeding programme. They will be working in tandem to sequence and assemble multiple genomes of guayule, a rubber-producing plant indigenous to the hot, dry environments of the Southwestern United States and North Central Mexico, to develop new, high-yielding varieties. The first-ever, two guayule genomes have already been sequenced and completely assembled and a physical and genetic map are being developed which will provide a high level of accuracy and efficiency for breeding improvement.
Bridgestone Americas (Bridgestone) and Versalis are forming a strategic partnership to develop and deploy “a comprehensive technology package to commercialize guayule in the agricultural, sustainable-rubber and renewable-chemical sectors.”
The University of Arizona has received a five-year grant of up to $15 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture to lead a new centre focusing on the mass production of biofuels and bioproducts in the Southwestern US.
Cooper Tire & Rubber Company and its consortium partners have completed their five-year research project into the potential of guayule rubber as a replacement for Hevea natural rubber in tyres. A report on their work was recently presented at the public-private sector consortium’s wrap-up meeting held at the Cooper Tire & Vehicle Test Center near San Antonio, USA.
Scientists working on Cooper Tire & Rubber’s guayule rubber project have reportedly reached a key milestone on the path to producing, by mid-2017, a concept tyre in which guayule-based polymers replace all natural and synthetic rubbers. Their testing has shown guayule to be an effective substitute material in certain components, with tyres produced using these components offering comparative performance to their conventional counterparts.
Tests of Pirelli ultra high performance tyres containing natural rubber sourced from guayule plants have taken place at the Circuito di Balocco track in Italy and at Pirelli’s own circuit in Vizzola, near Milan. The manufacturer says that extreme usage simulations showed comparable performance between these tyres and equivalent tyres produced using oil-derived synthetic polymers.
Around three and a half years ago, Bridgestone Corporation announced plans to develop the guayule plant into a commercially viable alternative to traditional sources of natural rubber. The company produced its first guayule-sourced natural rubber samples a year ago, and today shares it has reached another milestone on the path to guayule commercialisation – Bridgestone says it has produced passenger car tyres whose natural rubber content is 100 per cent sourced from the desert shrub.
The research Bridgestone has conducted on the use of guayule-derived natural rubber in tyre production was recognised at the 2015 Edison Award Winners event on 23 April. The tyre maker went home with a 2015 Edison Gold Award for Innovation in Automotive Solutions.