As global tire demand continues to expand, Sumitomo Rubber Industries believes that reducing the usage of fossil resources such as petroleum and coal, which make up approximately 60% of a conventional tire, and promoting the use of sustainable natural resources are extremely important goals for the tire industry.
With the aim of contributing to the creation of a sustainable society, we have in recent years been pushing forward with the development of tires that lessen our environmental impact, developing, for example, 100% fossil resource-free tires and various fuel-efficient tires, as well as runflat tires, which help to conserve resources. Among these environmentally friendly tires, our "ENASAVE 100," which we released in Japan in November of 2013, stands out as the world's first* 100% fossil resource-free tires made from all-natural resources-a technical feat made possible thanks to our proprietary biomass technology, which has enabled us to successfully replace all of a tire's fossil-fuel materials with natural resources. Meanwhile, we have also been working on further advancements in terms of making greater use of materials derived from natural resources while also enhancing their functionality. An example of this is our development of Ultra-Pure Natural Rubber (UPNR)-developed in pursuit of higher performance natural rubber, UPNR is already being used in "ENASAVE NEXT," our top-of-the-line fuel-efficient tires which have received the highest possible "AAA-a" rating for rolling resistance and wet grip performance under Japan's tire labeling system.
At the same time, however, as roughly 90% of the world's supply of natural rubber is currently produced in Asia, the Sumitomo Rubber Group cannot claim to have an ideal supply situation in light of the environmental issues involved in transporting natural rubber as we aggressively expand our global tire production network. And so, in order to achieve a more environmentally friendly supply of high-performance products on a global scale, we are now examining the potential of Russian Dandelions as a new, alternative source of natural rubber to possibly replace the conventional source of natural rubber: Para Rubber Trees. Thus, we are pleased to announce that we have recently begun joint research with Kultevat, an emerging American Biotech Company, toward finding practical applications for natural rubber derived from Russian Dandelions.
Kultevat is a US based Biotech Company headquartered in St Louis, Missouri. Kultevat serves sustainable agricultural markets, primarily by the production of rubber and mixed sugar feedstocks for the biofuels market. Kultevat has vast experience in the commercial utilization of plant materials to develop profitable, sustainable, and environmentally-benign sources of rubber, while simultaneously supplying the biofuels industry. Kultevat serves to reduce near-total dependence on foreign sources of rubber globally.
We believe that we can accelerate this process through the combination of Kultevat's biomass technology and the proprietary technologies that the Sumitomo Rubber Group has pioneered-technologies that have already found practical applications in terms of replacing petroleum-based tire materials with fossil-resource free materials and otherwise reducing the environmental impact of our products.
Unlike Para Rubber Trees, Russian Dandelions can be grown in temperate regions, meaning that their cultivation is possible in North America and, indeed, throughout much of the world. The Sumitomo Rubber Group believes that our joint research on Russian Dandelions will promote the greater use of natural resources and expanding their producing regions, thus enabling us to secure a reliable and efficient supply of natural raw materials at our production bases around the world. This, in turn, will allow us to provide a steady supply of high-performance tires with low environmental impact to a greater number of customers.
*: Since the use of synthetic rubber became standard in the tire industry (according to SRI in-house research).