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Peel Out! Car Tires Add Orange Oil To Go Green

Here’s a riddle for you: What’s orange and green at the same time? Give up? Yokohama’s new tires.  When people talk about improving the eco-footprint of a vehicle, we automatically tend to imagine novel engine technology, solar power, and so forth. But that’s ignoring one vital component that really can make a difference: the tires.

Here’s a riddle for you: What’s orange and green at the same time? Give up? Yokohama’s new tires. 

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Yokohama Tires

When people talk about improving the eco-footprint of a vehicle, we automatically tend to imagine novel engine technology, solar power, and so forth. But that’s ignoring one vital component that really can make a difference: the tires.

Yokohama’s new tire tech include chemicals derived directly from orange peels. Why orange oil? It’s chemically similar to the molecules in natural rubber, meaning it combines well in
the new tire compound, which is important for things like material
durability and “stickiness.” And of course, its inclusion reduces how much petroleum-derived products need to be in the tires. The company’s been experimenting with using orange oil for years, but it’s recently ramped up its testing to the point it’s ready to go into
production.

“This is not a novelty item,” says Mark Chung, Yokohama’s director of corporate strategy and planning. “We are not trying to green-wash our product.” The goal is to make “a better all-around tire for the consumer and the environment.”

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The company has been testing these new wheels in its Advan ENV-R1 tires on Porsches at the Patron GT3 Challenge races. That makes sense: Racing environments are harsh and can simulate the equivalent of many weeks wear-and-tear on conventional car tires in a compressed time. This is a key for the success of a consumer version of the tires, of course, because few people would choose an eco-friendly tire that wore out faster than a traditional one, particularly as tires are one of the most important safety features on a vehicle.

Yokohama is very pleased with the race results and it plans on releasing a consumer version of the orange tire in June. Expect to see it on the Toyota Prius and other hybrid vehicles–meaning the green get greener. Unfortunately, there’s no word on whether the new technology makes your car smell any nicer.

[via Autopia]

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I'm covering the science/tech/generally-exciting-and-innovative beat for Fast Company. Follow me on Twitter, or Google+ and you'll hear tons of interesting stuff, I promise. I've also got a PhD, and worked in such roles as professional scientist and theater technician...thankfully avoiding jobs like bodyguard and chicken shed-cleaner (bonus points if you get that reference!)

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