“Green” is the new buzzword, with the world largely moving towards more sustainable practices across all industries. The growing popularity of the hybrid car serves as one example that people are recognising the negative impact fuel powered vehicles to the planet. But can tyres be green? Apparently so.
Eco-friendly tyres do exist, thanks to a series of technological advancements made by the global tyre manufacturers, who are making considerable progress in this area in the quest to
end the use of fossil resources in the production process.
Why not tires? Green technology is gradually transforming the global automotive industry. Given the increasing number of discarded tyres in landfills, green technology is just as crucial for the production of tyres as it is for electric or hybrid vehicles.
Importantly, eco-friendly (green) tires are designed to reduce fuel consumption, which is influenced by a tire’s rolling resistance. Incredibly, green tires reduce the amount of friction caused when the tread contacts the road surface, resulting in a substantial reduction in fuel costs.
What makes a tire green?
For a tire to be considered green, it must meet specific requirements, including the use of organic elements in its manufacturing.
Tyre companies such as Goodyear, Continental, and Michelin are developing tyres made from sustainable raw materials such as biomass (agricultural waste), walnuts, Russian dandelions, and the guale plant. Until recently, synthetic rubber had been the norm, comprising the majority of the tyre, with only a small percentage of natural rubber materials and silica.
Carbon black-based synthetic rubber is a petroleum-intensive product (up to 37 litres per tire!) reduced rolling friction.
A tire with a low rolling resistance is considered an environmentally friendly tire. This is because rolling resistance is determined by measuring the amount of friction between the tire and the road. The more the friction, the greater the resistance, necessitating additional gasoline to propel the vehicle ahead. The addition of silica to tires reduces rolling resistance and improves fuel economy.
Tires with a lower rolling resistance consume less fuel. Additionally, they reduce co2 emissions, thereby saving both money and the environment.
And there are other advantages. Eco-friendly tires are designed to provide great traction in wet circumstances, resulting in reduced stopping distances and increased driver safety.
Tyre manufacturers rising to the occasion
In 1992, Michelin pioneered the green tire initiative, and its current tread patterns are designed to last longer.
Bridgestone is also made remarkable progress with their ecopia line of fuel-efficient tires, which the firm claims can save 5,7% of fuel.
And Continental has been developing a unique rubber that reduces rolling resistance by 30 percent compared to normal tires. In addition, the company is developing the technology to extract rubber from dandelion, a unique plant that can be utilized as an economically viable alternative to latex. Dandelions may be grown on infertile ground, which benefits both the economics and the environment.
Future of eco-friendly tires
From $129 billion in 2022 to $202 billion in 2026, the market for eco-friendly tires is anticipated to grow by an amazing 9 percent annually (2027). This is according to the most recent analysis conducted by smithers, which is detailed in their new paper, The Future of Green Tires until 2027.
According to the study, current tire demand is making a tentative recovery from the enormous disruption created by covid-19 and is now facing a market that has been changed as a result. The world will never be the same again, and sustainability is becoming one of the most crucial elements of post-pandemic corporate plans for automobile manufacturers. This creates interesting market prospects for tyre makers with the appropriate technology, while also offering special design issues over the next five years.
According to smithers, the most pressing need is to improve the rolling resistance of tyres, thereby reducing the carbon footprint of the vehicle and meeting the most recent emissions and fuel efficiency regulations. This tendency is especially prominent in the commercial sector, where fleet managers may monitor the total emission profile of their cars and value the return on investment. This is currently strengthening in the passenger tyre category, as the crisis in Ukraine and the resulting increase in gasoline prices are creating an additional incentive for consumers to acquire more fuel-efficient tyres in 2022.
In addition, green tires are viewed as a potential strategy for combating climate change.
A study conducted by the university of witwatersrand in conjunction with the centre for sustainable road freight south africa, and with the participation of michelin, iveco, afrit, lafarge, total and the council for scientific and industrial research (csir) – found that at 80km/h, a long-haul truck burning eight percent less fuel on green tyres compared to conventional tyres.
This means that a single truck emitted eight percent less co2 into the atmosphere, according to wits professor frank kienhofer. This green measure, if implemented on all long-haul vehicles in South Africa, might make a major difference.
Even though green tires have a 25 percent shorter lifespan than their conventional counterparts, they nonetheless provide transport businesses greater financial benefits. Even accounting for the tyres’ reduced lifespan, Kienhofer said that such fuel savings may boost profitability by 40 percent in the low-margin transport industry.
Concurrently, new mobility technologies are entering the market, with several automakers prioritizing the introduction of a substantial number of new electric vehicles over the next decade.
This is an opportunity for tire manufacturers, as these new cars demand creative tire designs that may increase driving range and provide improved wear resistance to compensate for the additional weight and torque of battery electric power systems. As new electric vehicle models reach the market, the race to acquire oem fitment contracts will intensify, as will the need to establish dependable sales feature channels for aftermarket repair and replacement sales.
Through 2021 and 2022, tire manufacturers have continued to reduce their environmental impact by investing in greener tire material sets. The smithers study provides an authoritative forecast for numerous material types (natural rubber, synthetic elastomers, process oils, fillers, and other chemicals/additives), including the market potential for highly dispersible silica (hds) fillers and synthetic elastomer grades derived from bio-based feedstocks. This is reinforced by other research regarding the growing technologies for tire end-of-life recovery, processing, and recycling.
Smithers market study monitors these trends for all key tire types (plt, tbr, otr, and others) and five geographic regions (Europe, North America, Asia-Pacific, South and Central America, the Middle East, and Africa).
Green automobiles and green energy may not be new, but what is new and necessary is the commercial enablement of such solutions for widespread industrial adoption and implementation, according to kienhofer.
kienhofer concluded that green tires are in a prime position to accelerate green driving, which is essential for the transportation sector to boost momentum forward and favorably impact climate management.