Dockless bike-share boom is spurring innovations in airless tyres

Chemical giants are taking notice of China’s dockless bike-share boom. Why? Orders for millions of polyurethane foam airless tyres. Germany’s BASF, Dow Chemical of the US and China’s Sinopec are all eyeing up opportunities to equip the second and third generation of these bikes, which have flooded into 100 Chinese cities and are now arriving in the US and Europe.

30 million bikes have appeared on the streets of Chinese cities in less than three years.

Industry veteran Shane Connaughton, CEO of Full Speed Bikes of Dublin, said dockless bike sharing will shake up the cycle industry, transform urban transport and, ultimately, reshape cities. “This is the most disruptive thing that’s happened to our industry for a long time,” he told BikeBiz at the Velo-city conference staged in the Netherlands a month ago. “The cash that is being pumped into the sector is unprecedented in the bike world.”

BASF has developed Elastopan, a polyurethane microcellular foam, for the dockless bikes, and wants to expand outside of this sector to "normal" bikes.

Dow Chemical has produced a PU tyre for Mobike, the dockless company that recently launched in Manchester.

Sinopec has developed a styrene-ethylene-butylene-styrene foam tyre, and has been unable to keep up with demand, noted ICIS News. Other Chinese chemical companies are working on thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) bike tyres.

Want to read more? BikeBiz has this long-form article on dockless bike-share systems and how they could transform cities and the global bicycle industry.

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