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Sustainable alternatives series: How tyres can reduce a car’s carbon footprint

posted on 9/12/2022
Sustainable Alternatives Series: How Tyres can Reduce a Car’s Carbon Footprint

There are many aspects of mobility that have the potential to increase sustainability. Alternative powertrains are just the very tip of the iceberg. In fact, almost every component of a car can play a role in improving its carbon footprint significantly. In our new series “sustainable alternatives” we shine a light on car parts like this that make today’s cars eco-friendlier. Starting, not only with one but four essentials that quite literally keep us moving forward: tyres.

RECYCLE & RETHINK: tactics for better tyre management

Tyres are some of a car’s absolute essentials. They are directly linked to its drivability, influence traction resistance, grip, speed, safety and much more. Unfortunately, because of the properties and lifecycle of its components classic tyres also have a major impact on the environment. According to Lancaster University and Andreas Stohl, a researcher at the Norwegian Institute for Air Research, the average tyre will lose around 4 kg of microplastics in its lifetime due to abrasion, leading to a global annual total of 6.1 million tonnes and severe air pollution. What’s more, between 1 billion and 1.8 billion end-of-life tyres (ELTs) end up in landfills each year around the world – tons of automotive waste, neither reused nor recycled. As the industry becomes more and more aware of these issues, manufacturers have started to develop a range of tactics over the last decades concerning materials, properties and recycling of which we’ll name a few examples here for you. 

RECYLE: Opting for sustainable ingredients

Tyres made 100 percent from sustainable materials – that is the industry’s goal for the future. While we might not be quite there yet, manufacturers have made a good start to reduce the environmental impact of their products. Goodyear for example has managed to produce a 70 percent sustainable tyre by substituting essential ingredients with renewable or recycled materials, the most important ones: carbon black, silicate, and polyester.

Carbon black, industrially produced soot, makes up for three kilos of one tyre’s weight. It protects it from heat and reduces cracks on the surface and excessive abrasion. Carbon black can be reclaimed from worn tyres, still the recycling rate is only one percent – despite existing technology. For the recovery of carbon black from worn tyres, Michelin cooperates with the Scandinavian recycling technology company Enviro specialised in the decomposition of ETLs. With the reclaimed carbon black, Michelin says they can produce up to 56 million new tyres per year.

With the reclaimed carbon black, Michelin says they can produce up to 56 million new tyres per year

To improve wet grip and reduce rolling resistance, rubber compounds contain a filler material, silicate. Silicates can also be produced from renewable resources like rice husk ash. Polyester, among other things, is needed to reinforce the tyre casing. A sustainable way to produce it is to recycle PET bottles which can be turned into a high-performance polyester yarn. These renewable raw and recyclable materials hold great potential for reducing the environmental impact of tyre production.

RETHINK: Saving energy through smart construction

Tyres also have great potential to make cars more aerodynamic, efficient and thus eco-friendly. The tyre carcass can be designed to be lightweight, thus, saving energy and fuel. The construction, shape, and tread of the tyres have influence on how much they deform while driving: the tyre yields, the rolling resistance increases, and more energy is required – the car consumes more fuel and electricity respectively. Additionally, the amount of energy absorbed by the tyres can be lowered through optimised rubber mixtures.

Finally, one crucial way to reduce tyre waste is to use them as long as possible – but of course always in compliance with safety requirements. For improved tyre longevity, Bridgestone will introduce a recyclable, silicone-based tyre sealant technology: The sealants are designed to be separated from worn tyres which makes repairs more feasible – more tyres can be reused safely for an extended period of time.

If you are interested in the tyre options for your fleet we are happy to assist. Working with hundreds of specialised tyre partners worldwide we can provide you with premium, eco-friendly solutions that match your company’s eco strategy.