Energy-efficient tires make a difference – How can drivers affect the carbon footprint of their tyres?

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Fuel consumption during driving accounts for the biggest environmental impact over a tyre’s lifecycle. By choosing tyres with low rolling resistance and checking tyre pressures regularly, the driver can both improve the energy efficiency and contribute to the eco-friendliness of driving. Also other factors, such as raw materials and the emissions from manufacturing, affect the carbon footprint of tyres. 

“There are many concrete ways for drivers to make a positive impact on eco-friendliness in traffic. Over 80% of a tire’s carbon footprint is created during its use. A wise choice of tyres, the right tyre pressure, and a careful driving style significantly reduce emissions from driving,” says Teppo Huovila, Vice President, Quality and Sustainability at Nokian Tyres.

Carbon dioxide is the most significant greenhouse gas generated by traffic. When an internal combustion engine car is used, it emits CO2 from the exhaust pipes. Typically, about one-sixth of these emissions is the result of the energy consumed by the rolling resistance of the tyres. As for electric vehicles, rolling resistance accounts for even as much as one fourth of the emissions.

For example, if a combustion engine vehicle emits 120g of CO2 per kilometer, the tyres’ rolling resistance will account for 20g/km. The lower the rolling resistance of tyres, the less fuel is needed for driving. For electric vehicles, lower rolling resistance means longer driving range and smaller electricity consumption. Thus, lower rolling resistance means lower CO2 emissions and a smaller carbon footprint.

The rolling resistance of tyres may differ greatly. The difference is significant for a car owner – and not just environmentally. The EU tyre label reports fuel efficiency on a scale from A to E. For example, a class B tire consumes about 0.1 liters less fuel per 100 kilometers than a class C tire, and 0.2 liters less than a class D tyre.

The average rolling resistance of Nokian Tyres’ tyres has been reduced by 8.5%, compared to year 2013. This equals to the exhaust fumes of 65,000 cars annually.

Production carbon footprint and raw materials also contribute to tyres’ eco-friendliness 

Besides rolling resistance, also factors such as raw materials and production emissions contribute to the carbon footprint of tyres.

“Compared to 2015, we have already reduced the greenhouse gas emissions per production tonne by 43% and are excited to soon begin the construction of the first zero CO2 emission factory in the tyre industry to reduce the emission even more,” says Huovila.

Tyres are made of over 100 different raw materials, and they are another important factor when evaluating the eco-friendliness of tires. Many recycled and renewable raw materials are regarded as particularly sustainable ones. Sustainability and eco-friendliness of raw materials are key factors in Nokian Tyres’ material choices.

“We aim to increase the share of either recycled or renewable raw materials in our tyres to 50% by 2030. The use of new raw materials requires a great deal of product development efforts and testing, as new raw materials can affect various tyre properties. The tyre’s safety characteristics must of course not be altered when new environmentally friendly raw materials are taken into production use,” says Huovila.

Correct tyre pressure optimizes energy consumption and helps prevent tyre damage 

In addition to lightly rolling tyres, correct tire pressure is vital for energy efficiency. If the tyre pressure is too low, both fuel consumption and the risk of tyre damage increase. Thus, regular tyre pressure checks are an easy way to impact the eco-friendliness and safety of driving.

“As a rule of thumb, tyre pressure should be checked once a month. If the load is heavier than usual, the tyre pressure should be 0.2 bar higher than normally,” Huovila reminds.