Wheels and tires have been around for ages. The first ever stone wheels were spotted in ancient Mesopotamia around 3500 BC. As civilizations progressed, tire technology also kept up. Nowadays, companies like Continental tires are crafting tires from a wide range of materials, both man-made and organic. They’re tougher and more practical than ever before, and this area will only get better as time goes on.
Carbon black, a material that’s pretty dirty to make and is very bad for environment, plays a super important role in making tires nowadays. It’s made from burning stuff like oil or natural gas, and it’s added to the rubber mix used to make tires to make them better in a bunch of ways, like lasting longer, having more grip, and being tougher overall.
But, like I said, making the stuff isn’t good for the environment, so finding alternatives or figuring out how to incorporate carbon black into a circular economy would really help with the whole tire environmental problem.
Luckily, Continental found a way to make things better at their tire factory in Korbach, Germany. They’ve started using recovered carbon black (rCB) in their brand new Super Elastic solid tires, which helps reduce their need for fossil fuels and decreases CO2 emissions.
The recovered carbon black used by Continental is obtained from Pyrum Innovations, a company they partner with. Pyrum uses a unique pyrolysis process to break down discarded tires in furnaces and extract valuable materials for recycling. This innovative method helps promote sustainability by recycling resources from old tires.
Recovered tires are not likely to be used for passenger vehicles in the near future. Solid tires are durable, strong, resistant to punctures, require no maintenance, and are cost-effective. However, they are primarily used in material handling for industrial vehicles like forklift trucks, airport vehicles, and heavy transport vehicles.
To put it differently, the method is currently only appropriate for tires that are used at low speeds and not for high-speed tires. Nevertheless, this is still positive information as a large number of solid tires are being utilized worldwide.
Currently, 60% of renewable and recycled materials are found in Continental’s SC20+ tires due to the use of abundant natural rubber. Continental aims to use 100% sustainable materials in their tires by 2050, showing their commitment to a more environmentally friendly future.
Reference- Continental Newsroom, Interesting Engineering, Inside EVs, The Drive, Tire Technology Congress