The impact of tyre wear on the environment

Published on 21.12.2021

The environmental impact of the abrasion of tyres is the focus of public attention, frequently in connection with the release of potentially inhalable microplastics. Recent studies indicate that approximately 500,000 tonnes of tyre abrasion particles are generated each year in the EU.

To illustrate and assess the environmental impact of tyre abrasion, ACL and its European partners have conducted a comprehensive study for the first time. Fifteen different models of different sizes were tested. In parallel, an analysis was carried out to determine whether environmentally friendly tyres are safe for motorists.
On average, vehicle tyre abrasion is about 120 g per 1,000 km. There are no fundamental differences in tyre abrasion between summer, winter and all-season tyres. Nearly all the tyre sizes tested have benchmarks with abrasion of less than 100 g per 1,000 km.
The tyre with the lowest abrasion rate is the Michelin Cross Climate+, size 185/65 R15 (58 g/1000 km). The Cross Climate+ is an example of what is currently technically feasible while offering the necessary safety features. At the other end of the scale is the Bridgestone Blizzak LM005, size 195/65 R15, which produces around 171 g of abrasion per 1,000 km. And worse yet: even though this tyre was the worst performer in the abrasion test, it did not even offer a convincing performance in terms of driving safety.

Michelin, Vredestein and Goodyear on the podium

The Michelin brand is a particular standout. Across almost all tyre sizes tested, the Michelin model offers very low tyre abrasion while also scoring well in the safety categories. The Vredestein brand also turned in an impressive performance, with its low abrasion and good driving characteristics.
This analysis of tyre abrasion from 15 tyre manufacturers finds that Michelin, with average tyre abrasion of only 90 g per 1,000 km, is well ahead of the competition. One positive aspect is that the Michelin tyres tested consistently score good to satisfactory in the safety category, despite their low level of abrasion.
Vredestein also boasts a surprisingly low abrasion rate of only 100 g per 1,000 km with its latest generation of tyres. However, unlike Michelin, the safety features of the Dutch tyre manufacturer are not completely satisfactory for all sizes. Although Vredestein is on the right track in producing safe and environmentally friendly tyres, several of its different tyre sizes do not yet offer consistently good performance.
Goodyear is in third place, with an average abrasion rate of 109 g/1,000 km. In particular, Goodyear’s Efficient Grip Performance 2 seems to have moved a step forward in terms of environmentally friendly tyres, as demonstrated by the test of their 2021 summer tyres, size 205/55 R16.

Still room for improvement

The least efficient tyres include those of three premium manufacturers - Pirelli, Bridgestone and Continental - which have a lot of catching up to do in terms of tyre abrasion. Pirelli, in particular, does not seem to have fully grasped the environmental impact of tyre abrasion.
Some tyre manufacturers are already recognising that reducing tyre abrasion is becoming increasingly important because it protects not only the environment, but also the car owner’s wallet, as the tyres last longer with the same tread depth.
New technologies developed by manufacturers mean that there is no longer any need to compromise between low abrasion and safety.
ACL and its European partners are in agreement. It’s time for a rethink. The marketing messaging from manufacturers that are still focusing on the driving performance of their tyres needs to change. Consumers would be best served by choosing safe and environmentally friendly tyres.

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