In the past few months, information technology-based “dockless” bicycle sharing systems become a hot topic in Chinese cities. Numerous shared bicycles from Mobike, Ofo, Gonbike, Beefly, Xiaoming, U-Bicycle, Bluegogo, Qibei and others are introduced into most of Chinese cities and ridden by thousands of people every day. They not only save people’s time and money, but also protect the environment by reducing carbon emission.
Tire, as the most important part of bicycle, plays a key role in the development of bicycle sharing industry. The tires of shared bicycles have undergone three phases. The first generation of shared bicycle tire is the common air-filled (or pneumatic) rubber tire; the second generation is air-free rubber tire, while the third generation is air-free thermoplastic elastomer (TPE)-based tire.
The conventional rubber-based tire is manufactured by several complex processes, including plasticizing, mixing, production of tire fittings (inner tube, tread, casing, bead, etc.), forming, and vulcanizing, etc. Air-filled rubber tire has good comfort, but requires a lot of labor costs to solve tire problems like air leakage. The riding comfort of air-free rubber tire is bad, though it doesn’t need frequent maintenance. Comparatively, air-free TPE-based tire is produced by one-step injection molding. This kind of tire is comfortable, recyclable, wear resistant, aesthetic, and light in weight due to many excellent properties of TPE, such as a broad range of hardness, convenient and efficient processing, non-toxicity, eco-friendliness, dyeability, soft touch, weatherability, fatigue resistance, and temperature resistance.
Of various performance requirements of air-free TPE tire, wear resistance is a very important one. However, the common wear resistant TPE tire is made of SBS, and it can’t meet the requirements of shared bicycles that are used outdoors all the time and also need excellent weatherability and aging resistance. Thus, SEBS(hydrogenated SBS) becomes the optimal choice for the production of shared bicycle tires, especially the grades with high molecular weight and radial structure that can provide better wear resistance. Currently, only SINOPEC Baling Company produces SEBS grades with radial structure, and its SEBS grade YH-602, YH-602T, YH-604, and YH-604T have been proven to be the most suitable material for making air-free tires for shared bicycles. In addition, TPE materials are also used in shared bicycles’ handlebars, pedals, saddles, and other parts that are in contact with human body, owing to its soft touch. SINOPEC Baling’s SEBS YH-503, YH-503T, YH-602, YH-602T are well fit for the production of TPE bicycle handlebars due to the excellent oil absorbency, good shrinkage and strength, as well as soft touch.
With excellent properties, SEBS products of SINOPEC Baling greatly facilitate the development of bicycle sharing in China, and they are continuously improved to meet the higher demands of shared bicycles. Furthermore, the total number of users in China bicycle sharing market reached up to 20.30 million by the end of 2016, according to a recent market report from Research In China titled “China Bicycle Sharing Industry Report, 2017-2021″. It is expected that the shared bicycle users will continue to grow explosively in 2017, and amount to 61.70 million by the end of the year. The substantial growth of China bicycle sharing market will in turn drive the TPE market to a certain extent.
For more information, please contact: BEC@becmaterials.com.