GUAYULE FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What is the guayule plant? What parts of it are used for rubber?
Guayule is a scruffy bush that grows in the American Southwest and Mexico. It is drought resistant and needs minimal fertilizer and water – making it relatively maintenance free. Rubber is found in the guayule plant just under the surface of the plant’s main stem as well as in the branches.

Are there advantages to guayule over Hevea natural rubber?
There are several advantages:

  • A Domestic Source of Natural Rubber
    Natural rubber comes primarily from Southeast Asia where Hevea trees are grown and tapped. Produced in a fairly limited geography, Hevea natural rubber is subject to broad price fluctuations, geo-political uncertainties and other concerns like potential disease and drought. The tire industry is by far the biggest user of natural rubber, consuming more than 70 percent of what is produced. A U.S. alternative would ultimately help address supply issues and help make price more consistent.
  • Address Shortage of Natural Rubber in the Future
    Experts say global demand for tires will dramatically increase as regions such as China and India begin consuming tires in great quantities with drivers buying their first vehicles in densely populated regions. The tire industry’s ability to meet that demand could be limited by a lack of natural rubber
  • Performance in Tires is Equal—No Compromise
    Cooper would not compromise outstanding tire performance using guayule in our products. Through rigorous wheel and road tests, it has been determined that tires made with guayule performed at least as well as conventional tires.
  • More Environmentally Friendly
    Hevea trees take seven years to start producing rubber, but PanAridus found guayule grows for just two years before it can be chopped off at the base, baled, crushed and processed to extract latex. In addition, rather than harvesting by hand like Hevea, guayule can be mechanically harvested and regrown from the stump annually for several more years. Along with rubber, guayule produces resin that shows promise to be used in adhesives, flavoring and fragrances, and the woody material left over from the plant—the bagasse—can be converted into fuel that burns at the same BTU as coal without coal’s pollution. Clemson University concluded in a Life Cycle Analysis that tires made with guayule have a smaller environmental footprint than conventional tires.
  • A New U.S. Industry That Could Potentially Create American Jobs
    If guayule becomes a viable alternative to Hevea rubber in tires, a new U.S. agricultural and processing industry would be needed that could create thousands of job for Americans.

Guayule has been studied as a rubber source for decades without success. Why is the work of the BRDI consortium considered groundbreaking?
The BRDI team has proven, for the first time in history, that guayule is a viable source of domestically produced natural rubber for the tire industry.

  • From Genome to Tire Production – First Time the Entire Guayule Value Chain Has Been Studied
    Never before has there been a team assembled like the BRDI group to study and collaborate on all aspects of guayule from the genome to irrigation/cultivation and harvesting to processing into rubber and being able to use that rubber in tires. In addition, the BRDI consortium included a comprehensive study of guayule’s life cycle to assess the plant’s environmental footprint when used in tire production. Throughout its history of study, some elements of this process have been present without others, and the gaps caused some guayule programs to fade away. This is the first time such a consortium was assembled to work effectively and expeditiously toward a solution, and the results were groundbreaking.
  • World’s First-Ever Tire where all Hevea and Synthetic Rubber is Replaced with Guayule
    In the past, only a few prototype tires have been made by Cooper and others with limited testing and application. However, through this program Cooper was able to build more than 450 passenger car tires replacing various components made with Hevea and synthetic rubber with guayule and testing each for overall performance. With knowledge gathered from those builds, the industry’s first all-guayule concept tires were created.
  • Performance Demonstrated to be on Par with Hevea
    The 100-percent guayule concept tires underwent extensive evaluation by Cooper’s technical team. They were tested in the lab, running over 750,000 miles on test wheels, and Cooper also evaluated tires made with guayule outside the lab in real world driving conditions at its test track near San Antonio, Texas. In controlled tests pitting conventional tires made with Hevea and synthetic rubber against those where all of the natural and synthetic rubber in the tires was replaced with guayule, the results showed guayule tires performed as well as, or better than, the conventional tires in functions such as wear, cold weather performance, fuel economy and wet stopping distance.

When does Cooper expect to have a guayule tire on the market?
The purpose of the BRDI grant was research and not commercialization. The BRDI team was assembled to prove what can be done and the impact it creates. It’s very necessary ground work that has proven guayule could be used in tire production tomorrow if there was enough material available at a competitive price.

What's needed next is:

  • Large scale agriculture: To make a dent in U.S. natural rubber demand, guayule must be planted on hundreds of thousands of acres, and grown and harvested over multiple growing seasons.
  • Infrastructure to process guayule into rubber: It needs to be demonstrated that rubber production can be achieved on a fully industrial scale and with manufacturing methods that achieve a uniform quality of rubber suitable for tires.
  • Pricing equivalent to Hevea for the tire industry: Economic scale and efficiencies will be necessary in the growth and production of guayule for it to be competitive with Hevea in the tire industry.
  • An outlet for guayule co-products: The resin that is extracted along with the rubber from the guayule plant has promise for use in many other industries and businesses. That future must be developed along with applications for the woody guayule residue left after processing the rubber.
  • Tire manufacturing plant adjustment: Adjustment will be needed to accommodate guayule natural rubber processing as opposed to Hevea.