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Industry Opinion

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It's a smart idea

According to research carried out by Consumer Reports Data and the University of Michigan, low-rolling resistance (LRR) tires can save only US$78 per year in fuel expenses. While the fuel-efficiency of LRR tires has frequently been touted as its USP, the results suggest that manufacturers will have to rely on the other beneficial features if these futuristic tires are to gain traction among consumers.

In addition to fuel efficiency, a key feature of LRR tires is their role in reducing carbon footprint. For the conscientious buyer, this can be of utmost importance, provided a thorough explanation of the benefits of LRR tires is offered.

Furthermore, the fuel-efficiency savings of LRR tires may not appeal to buyers looking for substantial savings, but other benefits, such as long life and better handling need to be promoted by manufacturers and dealers.

Sustainable mobility
Reducing carbon footprint and meeting CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards are two high-priority aims for auto makers. It will take incorporation of innovative tire technology to meet the 54.5mpg CAFE standards by 2025.

While LRR tires alone won’t help auto makers achieve this, they will contribute a great deal in making this possible. It has been estimated that tires contribute nearly 20% to the rolling resistance of a vehicle. So in the absence of LRR tires, meeting the CAFE standards is going to be an uphill task for auto makers.

Discussion around use of LRR tires mainly focuses on reducing the level of pollutants in the atmosphere. However, according to recent research, the right combination of optimum road surface and LRR tires can help reduce noise pollution as well. A joint project between SINTEF and Gdansk University of Technology found that use of LRR tires and better road surface can reduce noise pollution levels. This study shows the LRR tires can become an integral component of the broader move toward sustainable mobility.

Carbon black and nanocellulose
According to the findings of Birla Carbon’s 2016 Sustainability Report, carbon black accounts for nearly 25% weight of a tire. A combination of carbon black and nanocellulose can help reduce the rolling resistance of tires. The findings of the study prompted Aditya Birla Group’s Birla Carbon and American Process Inc. to sign a joint development agreement last year. Together, the two companies aim to explore the commercial aspects of using a combination of carbon black and nanocellulose in tire manufacturing.

While the incentive for tire manufacturers is to enable auto makers to achieve fuel efficiency, becoming a partner in sustainable mobility can be the way forward. Electric and hybrid vehicles are steadily capturing the imagination of consumers, and as discussion on environmental conservation gains centre stage, tire manufacturers will have an increasingly bigger role to play in the future.

Overall, the tire industry will be influenced by technology advancements, sustainable mobility, and automated driving.

Also, changing demographics will also have a massive impact on the type of tires auto makers demand from manufacturers. The rise of the middle class in China and India, combined with a rapidly increasing elderly population, can translate into tires that complement fuel efficiency rather than speed. Another impact of changing demographics will be driven chiefly by millennials, who are looking at effective solutions to reduce their impact on the environment.

The ‘smart’ tire of the future – one which relays information about wear, pressure, temperature, etc – will also have to be environmentally friendly. Innovation in technology will need to be inclusive, as a focus on sustainable development gains prominence among all the stakeholders in the global automotive landscape.

Nikhil Kaitwade, research manager for automotive and transportation at Future Market Insights, is the author of an upcoming report on the low rolling resistance tire market.

March 28, 2017 

 

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