By Oliver Hall
Weak demand for cars and growing competition from low-cost rivals like China has prompted Bridgestone tyres to rethink their decades-long dependency on petroleum-based synthetic rubber and to take a fresh look at natural rubber, according to a report.
Bridgestone has launched a new “half-weight tyres” project that uses materials other than synthetic rubber and as the name suggests, the project will reduce the weight of the tyre to enhance fuel efficiency significantly, reports Malaysian columnist Tan Siok Choo.
The Japanese tyres manufacturer is also developing “bio-rubber” – a plant-based product to replace synthetic rubber, The Nikkei reported.
Similarly, Sumitomo Rubber Industries hopes to produce commercially viable tyres without synthetic rubber by 2013. By adding oxygen, it has created an “improved natural rubber” with a molecular structure similar to synthetic rubber, the Nikkei news report says.
What the Nikkei news report underscores is technological improvements by major Japanese tyre makers coupled with expectations of higher oil prices are enhancing natural rubber’s competitiveness against synthetic rubber.