Pirelli has produced an Ultra High Performance tire containing natural rubber from the guayule plant for the first time. 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.
In 2013, Pirelli signed an agreement with Versalis (Eni) for an exclusive supply of guayule natural rubber to make tires. Pirelli researchers have since studied the material’s characteristics in laboratory conditions to assess how this would best translate to road use.
Pirelli recently tested the innovative prototype on the Vizzola and Balocco test tracks using a Maserati Ghibli. It demonstrated the same performance as tires made with synthetic polymers in a variety of extreme usage simulations, including wet road surfaces. Fabrizio Sanvito, project management and technical benchmark at Pirelli, added: “The track testing phase of our guayule rubber tires has been positive. Choosing a high-performance car to carry out these tests was designed to challenge the tires in the most demanding conditions to extract the best results. After this first phase success, we are now assessing a trial of these prototype tires in winter conditions.”
Substituting petrochemical polymers with alternative and renewable primary materials is a key objective for Pirelli’s research division, which has been a leader in sustainable mobility solutions for many years. Alongside this development of new biopolymers as a key ingredient in compounds, Pirelli already uses renewable primary materials in tire production, such as silica obtained from rice husks.