Pioneering a Greener Future: Nokian Tyres and UPM Revolutionise the Tire Industry

Nokian Tyres, and UPM, a biomaterials production expert, have unveiled a significant advancement towards sustainability in the tyre industry. This partnership introduces the first concept tyre made with UPM BioMotion™ RFF, a fully renewable lignin-based material poised to replace a substantial portion of the carbon black traditionally used in tyre production.

Pioneering a Greener Future: Nokian Tyres and UPM Revolutionise the Tire Industry
Pioneering a Greener Future: Nokian Tyres and UPM Revolutionise the Tire Industry
June 27, 2024

Introducing UPM BioMotion™ RFF: A Sustainable Innovation

The innovative UPM BioMotion™ RFF, a renewable functional filler (RFF) derived from wood-based lignin, offers a promising alternative to fossil-based carbon black. This new material not only reduces reliance on fossil resources but also lowers carbon emissions associated with tyre manufacturing. Nokian Tyres, renowned for its commitment to sustainability, has patented the use of this material in tyre applications and is now licensing it to UPM, enabling the latter to supply this raw material to the global tyre industry. Production will commence at UPM's soon-to-be-completed biochemicals biorefinery in Leuna, Germany.

Setting New Standards with the Green Step Ligna Concept Tyre

The collaboration has culminated in the creation of the Nokian Tyres Green Step Ligna concept tyre, the first of its kind made with UPM BioMotion™ RFF. This concept tyre entirely replaces the fossil carbon black in its sidewalls with the new renewable material. "With the concept tyre, we demonstrate the usability of the groundbreaking new raw material in tyres. Our concept tyre marks a leap towards the use of renewable materials not only for us but for the whole tyre industry," said Teemu Soini, VP of Innovations & Development at Nokian Tyres.

The first concept tyre featuring UPM BioMotion™ RFF will be showcased at the German rubber industry conference, DKT 2024, in Nürnberg from July 1–4 at the UPM booth 527 in Hall 9.

Towards a Sustainable Mobility Sector

UPM's Vice President of Biochemicals, Michael Duetsch, expressed enthusiasm about the partnership, stating, "Our partnership with Nokian Tyres marks the exciting entry of our Renewable Functional Fillers into the global tyre markets. In successfully demonstrating their application value, it helps us lay the groundwork for scaling our biorefinery business so that we can make a significant contribution to the sustainable transformation of the mobility sector and beyond."

A Superior Alternative to Carbon Black

Currently, carbon black is used as a reinforcing filler in tyres to enhance properties such as strength and resilience. Initial lab tests indicate that UPM BioMotion™ RFF offers superior features compared to traditional carbon black. Replacing a significant portion of carbon black with this renewable material promises great potential for more sustainable tyres, as fillers account for approximately 30 per cent of a tyre’s raw materials.

Nokian Tyres is working diligently towards its goal of increasing the share of recycled or renewable raw materials in tyres to 50 per cent by 2030. Since 2022, a portion of the carbon black used by Nokian Tyres has been sourced from recycled materials. "We see lignin as a promising renewable alternative to traditional carbon black, and in the future, we hope to see that lignin-based renewable filler materials will find their way to tyres, complementing an increasing share of recycled content," Soini added.

Rigorous Testing and Evaluation

UPM will initially supply UPM BioMotion™ RFF to Nokian Tyres for prototyping, which involves rigorous testing to ensure the new material’s performance, safety, and environmental impact are on par with, or superior to, traditional carbon black. This careful evaluation underscores the commitment of both companies to advancing sustainable innovations in the tyre industry.

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