Asahi Kasei, JSR producing next-gen rubber for high-performance tyres

August 30, 2017

Global Japanese chemical company Asahi Kasei and Japanese synthetic rubber producer JSR Corporation are ramping up production of next-generation rubber for high-performance tyres in line with the rising demand expected to stem from the increase in electric vehicles.

The new type of rubber for tyres launched by Asahi Kasei, the world’s leading producer of solution-polymerised styrene-butadiene rubber (S-SBR), offers more than 10% improvement in fuel efficiency without sacrificing resistance to wear.

The matAsahi-Kasei,erial is the next generation in S-SBR which provides better mileage and handling on the road than other types of rubber.

The new rubber will show up in tyres from Germany’s Continental and other manufacturers in 2018, starting with the European market. The European Union in 2016 banned the sale of tyres that do not meet strict environmental and handling stability standards.

Electric vehicles are also more widespread there than in other parts of the world. These environmentally friendly autos’ batteries and electronics make them heavier than conventional vehicles, creating a drain on efficiency that top-of-the-line tires aim to offset.

Asahi Kasei’s S-SBR plants in Singapore and Japan are currently running at full capacity for a combined 240,000 tonnes of annual output. The company said in July it would add an additional 30,000 tonnes or so of capacity at the Singapore facility, and aims to increase sales of the material 15% by 2020 compared with the 2016 level.

JSR, on the other hand, will begin mass-producing its own next-generation S-SBR this year, which offers lower rolling resistance thanks to changes in its silica content, resulting in better fuel efficiency. Manufacturers including Bridgestone will use the material, which will also provide better handling.

The chemical maker is expanding a Thai rubber plant and plans to begin production at a Hungarian facility as early as 2018. Production capacity in that year is to be double that in 2016, and the company aims to increase sales 10% annually through March 2020.

Global tyre sales for passenger cars and minitrucks are expected to reach 2.21 billion units in 2025, up 38% from 2015.

As companies work to make driving safer and keep up with stricter environmental regulations, such as Europe’s and those China plans to apply starting in 2019, S-SBR demand is expected to double to 1.75 million tonnes from 2015 to 2025. Japanese chemical makers are poised to lead the way in the production of next-generation S-SBR if their development assets are used wisely.

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