Michelin’s green rubber: Sustainable tyres approved for cars, with biking looking set to follow suit

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Michelin have big ambitions for tyre sustainability, with plans to produce all of their products with 100% bio-sourced, renewable, or recycled materials by 2050.

Before they can get there, the French firm have pledged to reach 40% by 2030 and have got the ball rolling by revealing two new options – one for cars and another for busses – using 45% and 58% sustainable materials respectively.

“The use of sustainable materials in our products is a key driver in our ambitions built around the last of the three cornerstones of our business: respect for people, profit (shareholders) and planet,” a Michelin spokesperson told MCN.

Michelin's sustainable car tyre

“We have company-wide targets around the use of recycled and sustainable materials in tyres. That differs for different types of tyres, but as a global goal it’s 100% sustainable tyres by 2050.”

These new hoops have now been approved for road use and are said to meet the same performance levels as the tyres already made by conventional means. With cars being the largest wedge of Michelin’s business, it makes sense that motorcycle tyres will follow the same path as the technology progresses in the future.

This has already begun in motorcycle racing, with the rear slick used in the 2022 MotoE world championship made of 46% sustainable material – including recycled steel, rubber tree sap, pine resin, sunflower oil, old lorry tyres and even orange and lemon peel.

Michelin Pilot Road 6 motorcycle tyre side wall

To help cut down the environmental impact in their new road-worthy car and bus options, Michelin have also looked at using recycled carbon black, which is a material used by tyre manufacturers to bind the rubber molecules together.

Alongside the environmental benefits, the Michelin representative also admitted to MCN that other external factors, including the war in Ukraine, have provided added incentives to sourcing alternatives to the substance, with a large chunk of its production coming from the country, as well as from Russia.

“The biggest stumbling block is the need to implement new sustainable materials without compromising tyre performance or longevity,” they continued. “So, for example, silica is a great alternative to carbon black and a lot cleaner and more sustainable.

Ducati's MotoE bike on track

“However, whilst silica works well in the cold and wet it doesn’t like very high temperatures so can’t be used effectively in race tyres,” they added.

“We have had to work on other sustainable solutions for different types of tyres based on both the conditions the tyres are used in and also the expectations of the consumers.”

Despite the difficulties, they went on to say that the developments in racing series like MotoE would help with the road tyres of tomorrow, adding: “If we can make a race tyre that works at high speed and under high stresses from recycled or sustainable materials then the technology and experience gained can easily be applied to commercial products.” Green is the new black.