The Tyre Collective – winners of the James Dyson Awards 2020 – have designed a device to capture tyre particulate at source. According to the UK Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs’ “Air Quality: Brake, Tyre and Road Surface Wear” report, tyre-wear accounts for nearly half of road transport particulate emissions. Furthermore, a reported half a million tonnes of tyre particles are produced annually in Europe alone, from vehicles accelerating, braking and cornering. As we move towards electric vehicles in the future, exhaust emissions will reduce but tyre particles will continue. The Tyre Collective estimate that tyre emissions may even increase, as electric vehicles become heavier due to the added battery weight. For both reasons, this year’s UK national James Dyson Award winners attempt to address this issue.
The University of Plymouth published government-funded research into what happens to particles released from vehicle tyres back in May. This comparatively recent report – as far as academic research is concerned – was launched with no-small media fanfare amid claims that tyres “could be a significant and previously largely unrecorded source of microplastics in the marine environment”. Be that as it may, the research also highlighted a number of significant knowledge gaps in this field of research.
Since October 2018, four researchers from Carnegie Mellon University in the USA have worked together with Bridgestone to develop a means for vehicles to automatically measure tyre wear. The result of this collaboration is Osprey, a mmWave sensing system that reportedly can provide accurate measurements of tyre wear in real-time.
Studies show the tyre/road abrasion caused by vehicles in motion contributes to microplastic and fine dust pollution, making this an issue our industry will increasingly have to consider in future. ZF Test Systems believes its new unit for testing tyre abrasion will enable tyre manufacturers to optimise their development programmes and offer cleaner tyres.
Emissions Analytics caused a stir last week when sharing news of its tyre wear pollution testing. It reported extraordinarily high levels of tyre wear pollution. The European Tyre and Rubber Manufacturers’ Association (ETRMA) has now responded with a statement that challenges Emissions Analytics’ testing procedure while keeping the door open to further dialogue on the subject of tyre and road wear particles (TRWP).
One effect of regulatory-driven decreases in vehicle emissions is that other kinds of pollution become comparatively higher. The contribution of tyres to overall transportation pollution has been scrutinised on a number of occasions, and opinions on the matter vary. Emissions Analytics now brings the issue of tyre pollution back to the table, flagging up that they’re much more polluting than car exhausts.
Michelin is teaming up with AS 24, the HGV service station network that fuel company Total runs in 28 countries across Europe, to launch a new automatic tyre inspection service – Fleet Diag 24. The partners will launch their diagnostic offer in March. The rollout begins in a small way, with Fleet Diag 24 initially offered at just three sites in France, however, we can expect to see it introduced at many more of the 986 AS 24 outlets in the UK and Europe.
Sumitomo Rubber Industries, Ltd. has developed a new technology that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to estimate the properties of the rubber used in its tyres and also detect the structural changes that occur during use. It calls this technology ‘Tyre Leap AI Analysis’.
Professor Richard Thompson OBE, who leads the International Marine Research Unit at the University of Plymouth, has questioned claims made by the Marine Conservation Society relating the role played by tyre wear in marine microplastic pollution.
According to a new report undertaken by Eunomia Research and Consulting for Friends of the Earth, up to 19,000 tonnes of microplastic pollution could be entering UK waterways every year from vehicle tyres. The report, titled Reducing Household Contributions to Marine Plastic Pollution, listed tyres in its ‘top ten’ list of items of concern, commenting that interventions and innovation, as well as governmental, business and scientific collaboration, may be required over the coming five years to solve the issue.
The subject of tyre and road wear particles (TRWP) was also broached at the European Tyre and Rubber Manufacturers’ Association’s (ETRMA) Board of Directors meeting. The Board stressed the importance of political debate – both on this issue and about the wider topic of sustainable mobility – adopting a strong scientific approach, based on facts and solid knowledge. Franco Annunziato, president of the ETRMA, called attention to the “value of having law-making, guided by robust science and based on evidences, as the only way to achieve the legislators’ targets.”
The UK government identifies tyres as potentially responsible for up to ten per cent of the microplastics in the world’s oceans, and some research conducted abroad suggests this proportion could be much higher. A study from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) indicates that 28.3 per cent of all primary microplastics may come from tyre/road wear (this figure rises to 46.2 per cent when the IUCN includes both natural and synthetic rubber in its scenario), and earlier this year a marine biologist from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research singled out tyres as a “major influence” upon the presence of microplastics in our oceans. Taking such research at face value, it is feasible that the ‘dieselgate’ scandal could be followed at some stage by ‘tyregate’. Yet the tyre industry asserts that tyre/road wear isn’t the environmental and health risk some claim it to be. Continental’s Nikolai Setzer recently discussed this side of the argument.
The US Tire Manufacturers Association (USTMA) is urging the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to cut what it described as “outdated, unnecessary or ineffective” federal tyre regulations.
Bridgestone recently gave a presentation to the Japanese Cabinet Office on the subject of its “ImPACT” resource saving, strength increasing tyre polymer research project conduction in association with Tokyo University. The project, which seeks to bring government, industry and academia together are to: developing high-strength materials, making each component thinner and lighter; and to improve fuel economy and save resources through weight saving and increased durability as well as reduced fuel consumption. Initial results suggest the scientists “succeeded in the development of materials that [offer]…a 60 per cent reduction in wear rate.”