31/05/2011

"Green tyres" are gaining ground

Buying new car tyres with low rolling resistance, to save fuel and thus raw materials and resources. Such low-friction wheels could improve environmental performance considerably, while saving money at the same time. Because “green tyres” or “eco-tyres” make a major contribution to environmental protection.

The rolling resistance of tyres can be reduced by up to 35 per cent by using special raw material combinations. Such low-friction tyres reduce energy / fuel consumption by about 5 per cent compared with conventional tyres, are better for the environment (due to lower carbon dioxide emissions) and are quieter into the bargain too. Low-friction tyres make half as much noise as standard tyres. And – contrary to the disadvantages of early low-friction tyres, i.e. that the savings were often at the expense of safety – low-friction tyres have in the meantime improved their safety performance: on average, they are no worse than standard tyres where braking, aquaplaning and road grip are concerned.

Acceptance of low-friction tyres will be changing at the latest when the EU label is introduced as of 2012. Starting in 2012, specific limits are to be introduced gradually for wet grip, noise generation and rolling resistance. According to the proposal made by the Commission, car tyres will only be allowed to have a maximum rolling resistance level of 12 kilograms from 2014 onwards and of 10.5 kg/tonne from 2016 onwards. This is very likely to make low-friction tyres more popular. In addition to this, tyres are to be identified by their properties – in a similar way to refrigerators today.

Tyre manufacturers have not been idle where environmental performance is concerned. The increase in crude oil prices is forcing them to economise in production, on the one hand, while legal regulations are compelling them to take action to comply with the new rules. As a result of this, practically all the well-known manufacturers have an eco product line in their range now. The tyre producers are doing research into new processes that reduce the rolling resistance of tyres even more. This is done via the rubber: low-friction tyres do not deform as much as conventional tyres. This reduces their road contact surface and thus their rolling resistance. The challenge is to make the rubber blend less flexible without sacrificing other properties like road grip or abrasion resistance. New plastics are being developed in this context that satisfy the requirements on safety, driving comfort and environmental efficiency.

Experts work on the assumption that we would eliminate 6 billion tonnes of fuel and 15 billion tonnes of CO2 if all the cars in Europe were equipped with such tyres. That is a tremendous amount! And the research work is continuing: sugar and corn could prove to be important raw materials for rubber production in the foreseeable future. Then the environment would benefit – and so, in the final analysis, would we.
The potential of “green tyres” has not been exhausted yet!