Tyre labelling 101
From 1 November 2012, every new tyre manufactured since July will be legally required have a tyre label. And what’s more the information contained on the label must be presented – physically or electronically – to the consumer at the point of sale. So what better place to start this month’s in-depth labelling special than to take a look at the much vaunted itself and introduce its main features and some of the discussions relating to it?
Fuel consumption: This part of the label reflects tyres rolling resistance performance and is presented in terms of the affect this has on fuel consumption. The label runs from A to G, something that harmonises it with existing appliance labels such as refrigerators and TVs. D is not used. The A grade is awarded to the lowest fuel consumption, while a G grade refers tyre is rated as the most fuel hungry. The difference between each category works out as between 0.42 and 0.56 miles per gallon (MPG) for a 36 MPG car. Tyres must be drum tested using a standardised procedure at one of nine EU-approved test centres spread around Europe. The list of approved centres – a document called 2012/C 86/03 – was only finalised on 23 March 2012, which has led to criticisms that the lead time between here and implementation is too short. These complaints have been heard loudest from non-EU (often Far Eastern) manufacturers who have to import tyres from the other side of the globe for testing.
Wet grip: Wet straight line braking distances, again categorised from A to G. This time however, both D and G are not used. This means compliant tyres will only be rated A, B, C, E or F. A-graded tyres have the shortest stopping distances, with the difference between each category equating to a stopping distance of between one and two car lengths (between three and six metres) when braking from 50 mph. 18 metres of stopping distance separate the A and F bands.
Exterior noise: This diagram represents three categories of external pass-by noise measured in decibels on a vehicle coasting past testing equipment with the engine off.
Label boundary box: Everything within the boundaries of the blue box are legally required parts EU tyre label. Nothing within this box can be redesigned and there are restrictions on how details within the box can be publicised and advertised.
2009/….: These small details refer to both the applicable EU law and the relevant segment – C1 for cars and C2/C3 for light and heavy commercial vehicles respectively. Full details of all these points and more can be found in the (EC) No 1222/2009 and (EU) No 1235/2011 legal documents that form the basis of the tyre labelling rules
Tyre labels from around the world
European tyre labels aren’t the only ones in existence. In fact the Japanese tyre label came first with a voluntary introduction in 2010, followed by the South Korean equivalent. South Korean labelling began on a voluntary basis in 2011, but becomes mandatory at the same time as the EU laws kick in November 2012. The European labels came next, with manufacturers able to share labelling data since 31 May, before this becomes mandatory in November. Plans for US tyre labels are well underway and research began into tyre labelling in China in December 2011.
Despite having adopted a somewhat different labelling scale (and indeed design) to the European system, the Japanese tyre label is actually directly comparable with what we are getting to know and love over here. According to rubber compound supplier Lanxess, and owing to the fact that the wet braking scale is somewhat different to what we see next to fuel consumption we have to assume this observation refers to rolling resistance, AAA is broadly equivalent to an A grade on the EU label. AA matches with B over here, while A equals C, B with E and C with F. Also in line with EU policy, the Japanese labelling standard foresees the withdrawal of G level products from the market at implementation, along with what the EU label calls E, but the Japan called B when phase two takes effect in 2016.
The second quickest off the market when it comes to tyre labelling, the South Korean system has been voluntarily adapted by the market dominated by local OE suppliers and large scale tyre exporters Hankook, Kumho and Nexen. Like the Japanese label before it, the South Korean equivalent features a two-part illustration centring on just rolling resistance and wet grip. However, where the South Korean label differs is in its clear promotion of rolling resistance above wet grip. Both are signified by a simple one to five scale, with one representing the best performance.
The South Korean rules apply to all tyre sold there. Replacement tyres must feature a label applied directly to the tread area, while OE tyre information must be published in the new vehicle’s handbook. Certification is carried out by three local bodies.
While the final decision about whether or not the USA will adopt its own version of tyre has not yet been made, the tide is clearly flowing with the implement of some kind of label. Despite the lack of final word on the matter, the body proposing its implementation (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – NHTSA) has come up with a draft design after a period of market research and consultation. The US label features what calls a fuel efficiency/greenhouse gas rating plus a safety rating and a durability rating – or in other words rolling resistance, wet braking and tread wear. All three are based on a 100 point scale, with 100 representing the best performance. Following some criticism of the EU label’s choice of monitored factors it will be interesting to see if some of the earlier labelling states (Japan and South Korea for example) follow suit with the addition of a tread wear rating.