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What’s the Future of Sustainable Materials and Auto Parts?

What’s the future of sustainable materials and auto parts? One promising venture seems to be with tires. Right now, exploring eco-friendly tires. It might be only one part, but imagine all the tires on the road replaced and what an overall impact that could have on the auto industry’s environmental footprint.

How tires are currently manufactured and impacting the environment:

Every time a tire revolves, it uses energy that essentially gets lost. This is known at rolling resistance. During the rotation, internal friction heats up to a significant energy, but it only prompts a car forward. There is no re-use of that built up energy. Tires that are fuel efficient are designed to minimize if not avoid entirely the rolling resistance effect.

Designing eco-friendly tires is a mission. On top of being “green,” tires – most eco-friendly cart parts, for that matter- have to meet strict requirements for vehicle and passenger safety. And on top of safety, the tires need to be durable and comfortable.

So far, things are looking good. Consumer Reports shows that green tires improve fuel efficiency by 2 miles per gallon. That might not sound like a ton, but dropping your gas mileage from 27mpg to 25mpg makes a huge difference 30,000 miles down the road. You are filling up less frequently, your gas bill is shaved overtime and you are helping reduce the carbon footprint from the road. Two miles per gallon is just the start, and it is a terrific one at that. It shows that in these earliest, experimental stages, there is hope for a more environmentally friendly automotive industry.

If we took all the U.S. vehicles and swapped out their tires for “green” ones, our vehicle fleet could save somewhere around one billion gallons of gas per year. That level of savings would dramatically affect our country’s independence on imported oil while significantly reducing our carbon dioxide emissions. So why aren’t we swift to get swapping? Well, as are many environmentally-friendly options, sustainable tires cost more. Up-front, the tires cost more to make and the cost of replacement would be colossal. The maintenance of the tires would also come with a high price tag.

Finding the right materials to build more eco-friendly cars is difficult. There needs to be a harmonious balance of wet traction and fuel economy. Here are some of the ways that industry experts are attempting to create green tires.

  • ADC has developed new compounds and silica-neutral formulations like PolyDyne, a micronized rubber powder. The powder shows improved performance by ten percent and is being used by seven of the top ten tired companies. So far, 400 million tires have been manufactured suing the new PolyDyne technology. ADC is working on taking this product a step further with EkoDyne, another breakthrough compound that will go to production in 2017. EkoDyne increases efficiency by 20 percent and reduces the cost of the material. The latter effect is increasingly important. If we want more sustainable tires on the road, we need a way to make and keep them affordable for both the manufacture and the consumers. Perfecting a compound that can be used as a renewable material makes this necessity possible.

  • Seventy percent of the world’s natural grown rubber is swallowed up by the automotive industry. Given the material’s naturally unmatched qualities, including resistance and load-bearing capacity, it is easy to understand why. However, as the automotive industry expands and the global desire to drive and own cars grow, the industry is left with only so much rubber to go around. The solution? Expanding rubber plantations, many of which are found in Southeast Asia. But if these plantations were expanded to meet the demands of the market, they face ruinous effects on their forests and endangered species. There is research into other areas around the world that might be a similar fit to harvest rubber, but so far no better matches have been made.

In the meantime, the auto industry looks to alternative sources for rubber. One unlikely contender: the Russian dandelion. Interestingly enough, the Russian dandelion, known for high-quality rubber production, was used by the SU during WWII to produce army tires. Drive4EU is researching ways to breed the dandelion most efficiently. Ideally, they’ll find a way to grow plots in Europe, making the source more directly available to automakers.

  • Another huge source of inefficiency in the tire industry is waste management. Tires that run their lifespan are still highly flammable and a heavy substance that cannot biodegrade. To avoid the stockpiling of old, useless tires in landfills, experts all around the world are working on more inventive ways to deal with the waste. Lehigh Technologies is experimenting with one way to go about the decomposition of reuse of tires. The company has been buying shredded tires from waste recyclers and turning it into the micronized rubber powder we discussed above (PolyDyne). The powder has the same consistency as flour and the diameters of its grains are smaller than a human hair. The powder is used as an additive to make new tires. Currently, the powder makes up about five to seven percent of the rubber in new tires. That sounds small, but it is just the beginning and already helping to cut down on raw material costs. So far, 350 million tires have been made using the powder.

  • In the sphere of marketing, the world’s effort toward tire sustainability, fashion shoe brand Timberland teamed up with Omni United to design a tired that could be recycled into a boot post road-life. The first recycled-tired shoes will hit shelves in 2017.

It is a pretty incredible time to have eyes on the auto industry as we watch the effort toward sustainable cars come to life. Only time will tell how successfully  eco-friendly car parts will evolve, and we are proud to report the progress every step of the way. For the most reliable used auto parts and any questions you might have relating to your vehicle’s sustainability, reach out to our team at Discount Parts Monster.