FULLERTON, Calif.—Yokohama Tire Corp. is using environmentally conscious tire technology both to make points on the race track and the world's highways.
The company's orange oil-based Advan ENV-R1, which debuted earlier this year, is the spec tire for the Patron GT3 Challenge by Yokohama series and the American Le Mans Series' Challenge Class. Its new dB Super E-spec tire, also made from a combination of orange oil and natural rubber, will be available as a consumer tire at local and online tire retail shops.
The technology has been in existence for about 20 years, according to Mark Chung, Yokohama director of corporate strategy and planning. Over the years the tire maker has worked on the program and has reached the point where it is mature enough to be applied to both world-class racing applications and to everyday consumer lines, he said.
The orange-oil-infused technology—based on a compound called Super Nano-Power Rubber—was centered on the firm's commitment to bringing a more eco-friendly product to market. Yokohama's racing program has long served as one of its core developmental activities, and its race engineers were given the challenge of producing a “greener” race tire without incurring any performance compromises, Chung said.
The Advan ENV-R1 racing tires are eco-friendly for several reasons. First, the race slick uses natural rubber, while a typical race slick uses little if any of the material. The combination of natural rubber and orange oil reduces petroleum-based material inputs by 15 percent versus a typical race slick, Chung said.
The tire is composed of 80-percent nonpetroleum material inputs, he added.
Second, the orange oil comes from a juicing plant in Japan where orange rinds are discarded, and the waste byproduct is utilized to extract the oil. The tires themselves also are produced in plants—like all of parent Yokohama Rubber Co. Ltd.'s Japanese facilities—emitting zero emissions, Chung said.
The orange-oil technology fits in well with the company's global green objectives and programs, which include its zero-emission sites and its “Forever Forest” tree-planting project.
“We are known to produce some of the world's best, fastest tires,” Chung said. “To bring to market world-class, high-performance products that embody eco-friendly attributes speaks volumes about our capabilities. We are showing the world that we need to sacrifice neither performance nor eco-friendly sensibilities with our tires.”
That strategy is exemplified by the tire's rolling resistance coefficient. Independent testing has shown that the dB Super E-spec's RRC figure is 22 percent less than that of North America's most popular hybrid vehicle's original equipment tire, and it is achieved without performance degradation, he said.
Yokohama's orange-oil tires have been met with compliments across the board, from race teams to owners to series organizers, Chung said. They like the performance levels and, just as importantly, the durability of the tires.
“Natural rubber is very durable,” he said. “However, it lacks the grip necessary to be used in racing applications. By infusing the natural rubber with the orange oil, we've increased the grip level while not compromising the durability attribute.”
Lap times also have been fast and consistent, he said. “It is not uncommon to see a race driver put up a fast lap time at the beginning of the race and even a faster lap time in his or her last lap.”
For example, in the ALMS Challenge Class race at the Utah Grand Prix, held the weekend of May 15-17, driver Bob Faieta ran his fastest lap time one hour into the race after 47 laps, Chung said.
Following two wins on Yokohama tires at their introductory weekend at the Sebring International Raceway in Florida in March, Faieta praised their strength and durability, even near the end of the races. “It's a testament to the new tire,” he said. “(It's a) really awesome product.”
The recognition generated by the tires and the connection to the racing series Yokohoma has partnered with has been successful thus far. “The (ALMS) is the undisputed leader in green racing,” Chung said. “To support ALMS's efforts with this tire is a fantastic way to showcase our capabilities.”
The company is banking on good results for its consumer tires as well. The dB Super E-spec will be available in Japan and North America this summer, with plans to roll it out to other global markets down the road, Chung said.
The tires will be available as fitments for several car models, including the Toyota Prius (15- and 16-inch tires), Honda Civic Hybrid (15-inch), Toyota Camry Hybrid (16-inch) and Honda Accord Hybrid (16-inch), he said.
“We are working hard to push the envelope with our eco-friendly tire development,” Chung said. “The recognition has to be earned, not adorned with marketing efforts, and we are constantly working toward the next great product.”