BMW's New X5 Plug-in Hybrid Will Ride on Sustainable Tires Made From FSC-Certified Natural Rubber & Rayon

BMW's New X5 Plug-in Hybrid Will Ride on Sustainable Tires Made From FSC-Certified Natural Rubber & Rayon

Author: Eric Walz   

Automakers today are looking to build more sustainable and eco-friendly vehicles, including the using recycled materials for interior components such as carpets, seats and interior panels. However one area that's often overlooked is a vehicle's tires, which contain roughly 20% natural rubber harvested from rubber trees.

The BMW Group is becoming the first automotive manufacturer worldwide to equip its cars with tires using certified sustainable natural rubber and rayon, which is a wood-based material used to strengthen the tires. Rayon is made from wood pulp and is typically used in clothing. 

Beginning in August, BMW will source the 22-inch sustainable tires exclusively from Pirelli. They will be offered on the 2022 BMW X5 xDrive45e plug-in hybrid (PHEV).

"The use of tires made of certified natural rubber is a pioneering achievement for our industry. In this way, we are helping preserve biodiversity and forests to counteract climate change," said Dr Andreas Wendt, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG responsible for Purchasing & Supplier Network.

Certification of the rubber plantations and the complex supply chain for natural rubber and rayon takes place in accordance with the strict standards of the independent Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), according to BMW.

The FSC has developed an internationally recognized certification standard that's used worldwide for environmentally appropriate, economically viable management of the world's forests. The organization's logo is already established in the wood and paper industry, but the FSC also applies the same environmental standards to products made of natural rubber, such as tires.

The new 22-inch P ZERO Perilli tire was the world's first tire to receive the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) label. To earn this certification, Pirelli adapted its U.S. plant in Rome, Georgia to produce tires using FSC-certified natural rubber and rayon. 

From there, the tires are delivered to the BMW Group Plant Spartanburg in South Carolina, where the X5 PHEV Series will be built. The sustainable tire from Pirelli also meets the BMW Group's strict performance requirements, including particularly low rolling resistance and noise level.

"Before even reaching the road, sustainable mobility begins with raw materials. With the world's first FSC-certified tire, Pirelli once again demonstrates its commitment to pursuing increasingly challenging goals in terms of sustainability," said Giovanni Tronchetti Provera, Pirelli's Senior Vice President for Sustainability and Future Mobility. "We continue to invest in sustainable growth for our planet, aware that this is also essential for the future of our businesses."

Most of the world's natural rubber is produced for tires. About six million small farmers worldwide are responsible for over 80% of the world's natural rubber cultivation, according to BMW. 


Natural rubber for tires is made from latex collected from rubber trees.

Natural rubber is derived from rubber trees which are mainly found in South America, Thailand and Indonesia. However the major source of natural rubber latex is from the Amazonian rubber tree.

The barks of the trees are cut to release latex, which in its raw form is a milky white liquid. After the latex is collected, acid such as ammonia is added to the latex to turn it into a solid rubber material. Afterwards it's pressed into solid bales of rubber for transportation and storage.

The raw natural rubber is typically mixed with other man made ingredients depending on the final application. Up to twelve different rubber compounds are used in modern passenger car tires, according to tire manufacturer Continental. 

Natural rubber's high elasticity and sturdiness currently make it irreplaceable for tire production for the auto industry. Therefore, harvesting it for more sustainability is important for BMW, since most tires contain about 20% natural rubber.

"The new FSC-certified Pirelli Tire is a significant milestone in the drive to deliver economic, social, and environmental benefits across the natural rubber value chain. This is a major step forward in the journey towards a more sustainable natural rubber value chain, thereby helping to mitigate deforestation and support the fight against climate change," said Jeremy Harrison, Chief Markets Officer, FSC International.

In addition to the tires on the BMW X5 xDrive45e PHEV, the automaker has completed full lifecycle CO2 certification on the vehicle, from raw material procurement, through the supply chain, production and use phase, all the way to recycling.

Eric Walz
Eric Walz
Originally hailing from New Jersey, Eric is a automotive & technology reporter covering the high-tech industry here in Silicon Valley. He has over 15 years of automotive experience and a bachelors degree in computer science. These skills, combined with technical writing and news reporting, allows him to fully understand and identify new and innovative technologies in the auto industry and beyond. He has worked at Uber on self-driving cars and as a technical writer, helping people to understand and work with technology.
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