Why green tyres help you to stay in the black

A practical test has confirmed that low rolling resistance tyres for HGVs can save €1.5 million in fuel costs significantly reduce CO2 emissions. Peter Viebig looks at the figures

As the Chinese philosopher Confucius once said, the journey is the destination. About 2,500 years later, two 40-tonne, identically-constructed articulated trucks proved his point by hitting the road, travelling back and forth for two months between the towns of Hürth in the Rhineland and Loos in northern France. The round trip there and back amounted to around 650 kilometres. In total, the HGVs covered a distance of 40,000 kilometres. The driver, payload and refuelling operations remained exactly the same for both trucks. So what was the difference between them? While one truck was equipped with standard tyres of fuel efficiency class D, the other one rolled along on class B so-called ‘green tyres’. The idea was to determine how much fuel could really be saved with this smooth-running rubber.

[pullquote]We have now been able to prove in practice that quality tyres with low rolling resistance offer a large saving potential in the commercial vehicles sector[/pullquote]

The results speak for themselves: ‘green tyres’ reduce fuel consumption in HGVs by 8.5 percent. Vehicle fleet operating companies who are constantly struggling with the pressure of costs could save many millions of euros per year. Additionally, tyres with optimised rolling resistance reduce the CO2 output of commercial vehicles significantly compared to standard tyres. Lanxess, the world’s leading manufacturer of high-performance synthetic rubbers, has developed and implemented a comprehensive test procedure together with TÜV Rheinland and Talke. “We have now been able to prove in practice that quality tyres with low rolling resistance offer a large saving potential in the commercial vehicles sector,” said Axel Vaßen, fleet vehicle expert at Lanxess. The tyre label is a new labelling requirement introduced by the EU at the end of 2012. This applies to both personal and commercial vehicle tyres. The label indicates the rolling resistance of the manufacturing brand from grade A (low) to grade G (high). Additionally, it rates the wet grip and the roadway noise.

The TÜV Rheinland experts recorded all the findings during the tests. “Our inspectors were on site for all refuelling operations and examined the quantity contained within the tank. This demonstrates the hundred percent monitoring we are talking about. Additionally, our experts checked the tyre inflation pressure or the vehicle weight every time. All this ultimately leads to reliable results,” emphasises Professor Dr.-Ing. Jürgen Brauckmann, Member of the Board of Management of TÜV Rheinland Berlin Brandenburg.

Talke is one of the first in its industry in Germany to have subscribed to the Responsible Care initiative through ECTA. “We’ve been using “green tyres” on our fleet for many years now”, said my colleague Christoph Opperman, Responsible Care Coordinator at Talke. “We haven’t been using the efficiency class D tyres that were fitted to the test vehicles for a long time now. So for us it was quite striking to see how unambiguous the test results were.”

[pullquote]greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced by around 150,000 tons per year[/pullquote]

The following example shows what a change to ‘green tyres’ means: up to now, a fleet of 300 heavy trucks has been using tyres that have a D rating value for rolling resistance according to the EU label. But if the company were to switch to tyres rated B (A tyres for HGVs are currently very difficult to get hold of), they could save €1.5 million per year in fuel costs alone (for a distance of 150,000 kilometres per vehicle and at a fuel price of €1.40). After deducting the extra charges of €140,000 for the ‘green rubber’, you are still left with a plus of around €1.45 million. The CO2 savings amount to more than 3,000 tons per year. “The analysis speaks for itself, but it also confirms the experience we have gained over many years. This slightly higher price for a ‘green tyre’ pays off quickly,” explains Project Manager Armin F. Talke. If all of the approximately 14,300 registered 40-tonnetrucks in Germany were equipped with low rolling resistance tyres, trucking companies could make total net savings of more than €69.5 million per year. Additionally, greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced by around 150,000 tons per year.

“The test is a further demonstration of the great benefit afforded by sophisticated modern standards, including in the chemical transport sector,” said Marc Twisk, Managing Director and Responsible Care Coordinator at the ECTA. The use of low rolling-resistance tyres is a best practice that can help the members of his association to improve efficiency, even in an increasingly competitive business environment, while maintaining or improving safety and at the same time operating in a more sustainable manner.

Christoph Kalla, tyre and rubber expert at Lanxess, explains where the development of environmentally friendly tyres is heading: “Within the tyre industry, every possible avenue in terms of construction has been exhausted to a great extent. In other words: the age of the material has begun.” Due to their specific characteristics, high-performance rubbers provide more fuel efficiency and elasticity as well as greater wear and tear resistance. Kalla is confident: “Further development of these materials will allow tyre manufacturers to reduce the rolling resistance even more in the future.”

Peter Viebig is director of transport for Alfred Talke, a member company of ECTA.

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