Rice-based tires Are Real and They Can’t Hurt You

Certainly, rice contains a key tire material typically present in sand. Discover why Michelin is transforming food into rubber.

Michelin states that sustainable silica isn’t sourced from sand. As a commitment to creating fully sustainable tires by 2050, Michelin has begun using rice in its tire production, though it may not be as expected.

What Makes a Tire Sustainable?

Initially, what defines the creation of a completely sustainable tire? Presently, there’s no standardized regulation or formal description for what constitutes a “sustainable tire.”

To ensure that sustainability surpasses mere marketing tactics, Michelin established its own criteria regarding this concept. According to Michelin, a substance is deemed sustainable only if it’s recyclable or renewable within a human lifespan.

Michelin currently incorporates recycled plastics, styrene, natural and synthetic rubbers, and even other tires into its sustainably sourced tire formula. However, what about plant-based materials?

Silica derived from rice husks

Each year, an immense amount of rice is cultivated—specifically, 670 million metric tons. Almost a quarter of this quantity, by weight, constitutes the rice husk, the tough outer covering of the edible grain, typically discarded as waste. Why does Michelin prioritize rice husks? When incinerated, they transform into rice husk ash, containing natural silica, a tire component traditionally sourced from sand.

Tire engineers adjust the silica levels in tires to enhance rolling resistance and consequently, efficiency. Silica content can also impact a tire’s durability against cuts and chips, among other characteristics.

In summary, Michelin (along with other tire manufacturers) has started using silica sourced from rice husks to lower production expenses and align with its own standards for sustainable tire components.

42 Percent of Tires Made Sustainably

A group of individuals recently experimented with a Michelin tire boasting a composition containing 42% sustainable materials.

Putting it to the test on a Ford Explorer outfitted with sustainable Michelin Primacy all-season tires, they embarked on several fast laps around the curves of Sonoma Raceway.

Although not an exhaustive or scientific evaluation, they felt confident navigating the hairpin turns. Despite engaging in aggressive driving for an entire day, there were no signs of excessive wear.

Author:

  • Ian Sawyer

    Growing up with a father who was a mechanic I had an appreciation for cars and motorcycles from an early age. I shared my first bike with my brother that had little more than a 40cc engine but it opened up a world of excitement for me, I was hooked. As I grew older I progressed onto bigger bikes and...