European Tire Grading Mandate Influencing Tire Material Choice

Traditional car tire materials technology that for so long has allowed consumers and carmakers alike inexpensive tire choices is likely to give way to environmentally friendly low rolling resistance tires that may also be cheaper in the end.

“It seems paradoxical, but ‘cheap’ tires made only of conventional types of rubber have become too expensive for cost and environmentally conscious consumers,” said Dr. Joachim Grub of German chemicals company Lanxess in Automotive Engineering International magazine.

A study conducted for Lanxess – also a pioneering company in synthetic rubber – concludes that automakers, tires companies, and synthetic rubber manufacturers need to have a meeting of the minds to find ways to combat the rising financial and environmental costs of traditional materials used in tire manufacturing.

Improved performance solution styrene-butadiene rubber (SSBR) grades, generally for green tire tread compounds, together with neodymium-based performance butadiene rubber (Nd-PBR) used in tire tread and sidewalls construction, are seen as being essential to achieve required solutions.

SSBR helps reduce rolling resistance and improve wet grip; Nd-PBR resists abrasion to help make tires safer and more durable. The study conducted for Lanxess states that in five years time twice as much SSBR will be used in car tires as conventional emulsion-styrene-butadiene rubber (ESBR), particularly in performance tire.

The driving force behind the needed changes was the introduction of mandatory tire labeling in Europe in November. Gradings run from A through G based on fuel efficiency, wet grip, and rolling noise. The move to introduce labeling follows Japan and South Korea, with others likely to embrace it, writes the Stuart Birch.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the U.S. has been tasked with creating similar labeling requirements, which will include a rolling resistance aspect. But as we reported, to date NHTSA hasn’t fully accomplished a rating system.

Findings showed that some 85 percent of the 32 tire companies questioned in the research expect the new EU regulation to “significantly” impact their daily business.