Bridgestone Embraces Sustainability With Internal Training
Tires are constantly evolving. It's a game of traction. Thanks to advances in technology, tire companies have been working to make sure their latest tires stick to the road, track, dirt, or mud as firmly as possible. The introduction of EVs into the equation is just another problem to be solved that requires a few new skills that continue that evolution into a more sustainability-focused world.
"I think you can parse the sustainability for tires into things that are a continuation of what we've been interested in doing with tires," Bill Niaura, director of sustainable innovation and circular economy at Bridgestone told SAE.
EVs may add additional considerations to tire development, but the additional weight, increased torque of an electric motor, and the lower rolling resistance (to increase range) are just use-case scenarios in the same way a tire built for the track is sticky for maximum traction at high temperatures.
It's sustainability both upstream (sourcing materials) and creating an end-of-life system that gathers the materials from used tires to create new tires that are seeping into the tire building and development equation.
Bridgestone for its part recently developed a tire that is composed of 75 percent renewable and recycled material. The company will be testing the new tires with automakers through the rest of the year. The manufacturer is also currently working on a tire that is comprised of 90 percent renewable and recyclable material.
These current developments are part of Bridgestone's goal to use 100 percent sustainable materials in its products by 2050.
To help achieve this goal there's a need for those that can do lifecycle, carbon footprint, and carbon intensity analysis at a product level. It's a level of expertise that wasn't that traditionally didn't exist five to 10 years ago in tire companies.
Not only would these individuals need these types of skills, but they should be able to help train the broader teams what sustainable needs at a broader level. These individuals don't have to be well-versed in tires. "I can't go to the universities and hire anybody who has any background in tire engineering or tire design," Niaura said.
For more traditional roles, Bridgestone typically hires material scientists or chemists for the material side and usually mechanical engineers on the product side and train them for the tire industry. Niaura said that the industry is adaptable in that way. So yes, it's looking for new expertise, but those individuals should focus on the core skills needed for their job and Bridgestone will train them on the broader world of tires.
Bridgestone sees the future as an opportunity that doesn't veer too far from the tire lineup that customers have chosen from for specific use cases for decades.
"We've traditionally sold tires on the performance attributes of, rolling resistance, wet traction, dry traction wear rate, etc. Adding carbon footprint and sustainable content is a performance attribute of the product," Niaura said.