In the early 1800s, making rubber from the tree sap of rubber trees was mostly just a curiosity. After much experimentation, though, in 1823 George Macintosh developed a way to impregnate the rubber into clothing material. Thus the first water proof clothing was developed. Not long afterwards, in 1839, Charles Goodyear developed a way to vulcanize rubber and this allowed rubber to be formed into larger components. The creation of rubber products exploded soon thereafter. Today making rubber products from rubber tree sap is still done and the result is called “natural rubber.” However, as useful as natural rubber is, there wasn’t enough to meet demand. Other scientists, then, developed a substitute in the early 1900s and now virtually all rubber made from petroleum. In most ways, it is superior to the natural variety and is much less expensive.
Funny thing is that sometimes Mother Nature still knows best. Despite the majority of today’s tires being made out of synthetic rubber, a natural organic product is still used. Ready for this? Yokohama, the tire company, is adding the oil from orange peels to the rubber in some of its tires.
Why orange peel oil? Here’s the story: Tire manufacturers are forever in search of the best rubber compound. What they would like is a rubber that has more grip yet exhibits less resistance to rolling. Yokohama claims that its orange peel-infused tread, dubbed Super Nano-Power Rubber Compound, does just that. The viscosity of the tread compound in the tire changes in response to temperature differently than does a tread made with conventional oil.
As they explain it, at low speeds, the Yokohama compound exhibits a high viscosity, which contributes to lower rolling resistance. As temperatures increase—during race conditions, as Akins Chrysler of Winder , a local Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram dealer in Winder, GA, points out—the viscosity goes down, and that makes the tread compound stickier, which increases grip to a higher level than that of a traditional low-rolling-resistance tire.
The oil comes from industrial citrus farms whose production is primarily destined for the breakfast table. However, after the orange juice is extracted from the oranges, there are lots of orange peels left over. A second harvesting occurs when the oils from these peels is extracted and sold to companies that make household cleaners and fragrances. You’ve undoubtedly seen them at the supermarket or hardware store. And, some of it goes to Yokohama. Yokohama won’t reveal how much citrus oil is in it’s tires, but a typical tread compound has an oil content of less than 10 percent. And the citrus oil replaces only a small amount of that. In total, however, Yokohama claims that its citrus tires 80 percent less petroleum than conventional tires.
The company’s line of “citrus tires” is currently limited to two models: the Advan ENV-R2 race tire used in the Yokohama-sponsored Patrón GT3 Challenge and the dB Super E-spec passenger tire designed for use on hybrids and fuel-efficient compacts.