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Pirelli tests tires made of guayule

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MILAN, Italy—Pirelli Tyre S.p.A. tested an ultra-high-performance tire made with rubber derived from guayule, culminating a two-year research and development initiative Pirelli embarked on with Italian materials supplier Versalis.

Pirelli said in general the test tires “demonstrated the same performance as the equivalent tires made with synthetic polymers from oil-derived products” in a variety of extreme usage simulations, including wet road surfaces.

Fabrizio Sanvito, project management and technical benchmark at Pirelli, said, “The track testing phase of our guayule rubber tires has been more than positive.”

Pirelli tested the tires using a Maserati Ghibli four-door sedan at two testing facilities in Italy—its own near Vizzola and Fiat Group's near Balocco. Powered by a 3-liter twin-turbo V6, the Ghibli is capable of speeds up to 165 mph and 0-60 mph acceleration in 5.6 seconds.

Since signing the R&D pact with Versalis—a unit of Italy's Eni S.p.A. energy company—in 2013, Pirelli's researchers have studied the characteristics of guayule-derived rubber closely in laboratory conditions, in order to assess how it would translate to road use.

The program benefited from research Versalis has carried out on technologies used for the extraction of rubber, as well as the resinous nature of the plant, Pirelli said, which yielded a material that was compatible with the non-elastomeric parts that make up a tire.

Versalis' research is part of a development program looking at ways to incorporate guayule usage throughout industry, Pirelli said, starting with experimental crop growing in southern Europe and expanding into various technologies aimed at extracting the natural rubber with the aim of using it to make tires.