Bridgestone has put more than $100M into eco-tires made of shrubs

Enlarge / A Firestone race tire made from guayule plants, pictured next to the little woody shrubs that made it possible. (credit: Bridgestone)

There’s still a lot of petroleum hanging onto electric cars, specifically around the rims. It takes about seven gallons of oil to make each standard car tire, and the world produces more than 2 billion tires every year. Now, some tire companies are turning to a desert shrub and a novel means of pulling natural rubber compounds out of it.

Bridgestone Americas has been working with guayule (Parthenium argentatum) since 2012. The tire company broke ground on a research facility in Mesa, Arizona, in 2012, started evaluating sample tires in 2015, and received multiple grants from the US Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Energy for its research and molecular breeding work. Just last month, the company committed another $42 million to expanding its harvesting partnerships, with 350 acres in the short term and 250,000 more planned. That’s part of more than $100 million invested into guayule-based rubber, the company says.

“With guayule, we can reduce the environmental impacts that come with overseas sourcing while also realizing a more sustainable agricultural system for parts of this country that are facing persistent and worsening climate conditions, so it’s really something with many benefits for our environment and our economy,” said Nizar Trigui, chief technology officer for Bridgestone Americas, in a press release.

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