MILAN, ItalyPirelli Tyre S.p.A. recently tested an ultra-high-performance tire made with rubber derived from the guayule, culminat- ing a two-year research and development initiative Pirelli embarked on with Italian materials supplier Versalis.
Pirelli said in general the test tires demonstrated the same performance as the equivalent tires made with synthetic polymers from oil-derived products in a variety of extreme usage simulations, including wet road surfaces.
Fabrizio Sanvito, project management and technical benchmark at Pirelli, said, The track testing phase of our guayale rubber tires has been more than positive. The choice of a high-performance car to carry out these tests was dictated by the need to place the biggest possible demands on the tires and extract the most meaningful results.
After the success of this first phase, we are now assessing the possibility of trying out these prototype tires in winter conditions.
Pirelli tested the tires using a Maserati Ghibli sedan at two testing facilities in Italy.
Since signing the R&D pact with Versalis in 2013, Pirelli's researchers studied the characteristics of guayule-derived rubber closely in laboratory conditions in order to assess how it would translate to road use.
Versalis' research is part of a development program looking at ways to incorporate guayale usage throughout industry, Pirelli said, starting with experimental crop growing in southern Europe and expanding into various technologies aimed at extracting the natural rubber with the aim of using it to make tires.
Guayule is a desert shrub that typically grows in arid climates. It is not a food crop and can be cultivated with little water and no pesticides, making it a viable alternative to the Hevea Brasiliensis rubber plant, Pirelli said.