Tire manufacturer Yokohama is now selling a model made with 80 percent non-petroleum material, substituting orange oil as the primary ingredient to make vulcanized rubber.
The new tire is called the Super E-spec™ and has already received the Popular Mechanics Editor's Choice Award in 2008. Yokohama will initially market the tire for hybrid car models such as the Toyota Prius.
"The eco-focused dB Super E-spec mixes sustainable orange oil and natural rubber to drastically cut the use of petroleum, without compromising performance," Yokohama vice president of sales Dan King said. "It also helps consumers save money at the gas pump by improving fuel efficiency via a 20-percent reduction in rolling resistance."
Orange oil is considered sustainable because it is produced from a renewable resource. The same philosophy of reducing petroleum use is utilized in producing plastics from corn starch or vegetable oil.
Yokohama has yet to release the environmental impact of disposing these tires, which typically provides an environmental concern. The petroleum in traditional tires can burn for months in a landfill and is difficult to extinguish. These fires also release black smoke and toxins into the air. Yokohama has not specified whether the orange oil will biodegrade over time.
The process for recycling tires involves devulcanizing the rubber, which would essentially remove the oil and extract natural rubber. Because this is an expensive process, used tires are often shredded and turned into playground surfacing or additives for the soil in sports turf. It can also be reused as artwork.