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How an efficient tire management can reduce a car’s carbon footprint

posted on 16/6/2022

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 that have the potential to make our cars eco-friendlier. Starting with a part that actually consists of four subparts that quite literally keep us moving forward: tires.
Are fuel-efficient car tires a dream or a reality? And how can your tire management contribute to a better environment? In this blog post, we take a closer look at these questions. 


The importance of improving tire management

Tires are essential for any car. They are directly linked to aspects such as drivability, traction resistance, grip, speed and safety, among others. Unfortunately, classic tires have a major negative impact on the environment due to the properties and lifecycle of their components. 

According to the Lancaster University and Andreas Stohl, a researcher at the Norwegian Institute for Air Research, the average classic car tire loses around 4kg of microplastics due to abrasion, before it can no longer be used. This comes down to a global annual total of 6.1 million tonnes of released microplastics and a severe global air pollution.

On top of that, between 1 and 1.8 billion end-of-life tires (ELTs) end up in landfills each year. These are tires that are not reused or recycled

Luckily, tire management is now high on the agenda of the automotive industry, which is becoming increasingly aware of the problem at hand. More and more manufacturers are looking for alternatives to optimise the materials, properties and recycling possibilities of their car tyres. 

We have gathered some of said alternatives down below.


Making tires recyclable through sustainable materials

Tires made from 100% sustainable materials – that’s the dream of the industry. While that dream might not be within reach just yet, many manufacturers have managed to substantially decrease the impact of their tires on the environment.

Take Goodyear for example, which has managed to produce a car tire made from 70% sustainable materials. How did the American tire giant do this? By replacing classic materials that were previously considered to be essential with renewable and recycled alternatives such as soot, silicate and polyester.


Soot in car tires

The soot used in modern car tyres is not the soot found in our chimneys, but rather an industrially produced soot. This soot is known in the automotive industry as Carbon Black.

Carbon Black accounts for three kilos of the weight of a modern car tire and has numerous strong properties. 

  • It protects the tire from heat. 
  • It reduces cracks in the tire surface..
  • It prevents excessive wear. 

A fourth - and also very important property, is that Carbon Black can be recovered from worn tyres. This is something that Michelin, for example, is already working hard on. The French tire specialist has a partnership with Enviro, a Scandinavian company that develops tire recycling technology. Michelin itself claims that it’s able to produce up to 56 million new tires a year using the soot it covers. 

Unfortunately, even though it has proven its worth, tire recycling technology is not yet adopted globally. In fact, Michelin is just one of a few manufacturers that already use it.  

In 2022, only 1% of all Carbon Black in car tyres is recovered.


Silicate in car tires

Silicate is a filler material added to the rubber compounds used in car tires. Silicate reduces the rolling resistance of tires and increases the grip of tires on wet roads and surfaces, making it an essential element in winter tires.

Silicates can be produced from renewable resources such as the ashes of rice husks (sheaths of rice). 


Polyester in car tires  

Polyester is needed to reinforce the core structure of car tires (tire carcass).

 A sustainable way to produce polyester is to recycle PET bottles. High-quality polyester yarn can be made from PET bottles, which are also perfectly recyclable. In other words, polyester yarn offers the tire industry a great opportunity to make its production processes a lot eco-friendlier.

So although car tires cannot yet be 100% recycled, there are already many interesting developments that make them much more sustainable.


Saving energy with cleverly designed car tires

Fuel-efficient car tires

Car tires also have a great potential to make cars more aerodynamic, efficient and thus eco-friendly. A smart tire carcass design can help reduce the weight of tires and, ultimately, help save energy and fuel whilst driving.

Furthermore, there are certain tire properties (such as tire shape and tread) that influence the extent to which tires deform while driving. If tires deform a lot, their rolling resistance increases and cars need more energy – fuel and electricity – to move forward.

The amount of energy absorbed by tires can be reduced by implementing a smarter tire design. For example, by using optimised rubber compounds in the tires.


Longer-lasting car tires

A final way to reduce tire waste is to use car tires for as long as possible - following the safety regulations, of course. 

To improve the lifecycle of its tyres, Bridgestone will soon launch a recyclable silicone-based tire sealant. This sealant is designed so that it can be easily removed from worn tires , making repairs easier and allowing tires to be safely reused for a longer period of time.


An optimal tire management for your fleet

Want to know which type of car tires best suits your fleet? Alphabet is your tire management specialist. As an international company, we work with hundreds of specialised partners for our tires. We guarantee a high-quality and environmentally friendly solution tailored to your mobility strategy.

In the next chapter of our 'sustainable alternatives' series, we discuss why and how car manufacturers reduce the weight of their cars and how a lighter design makes cars more sustainable.

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