Tyre manufacturers are playing an important role in helping to reduce truck emissions ahead of the phasing out of diesel engines, with a range of tyre innovations to help save CO2, increase mileage and be more sustainable.
This article was originally published in the March 2021 issue of Commercial Vehicle Engineer magazine. To read the full issue, click here.
Road transport is said to contribute 25% of overall CO2 emissions, according to European Commission studies, which means that all parts of the sector – from vehicle manufacturers to fuel providers and tyre manufacturers – have a role to play in reducing emissions. This is especially so as new CO2 reduction targets have been set, stipulating that commercial vehicles must reduce CO2 output by 15% by 2025 and 30% by 2030.
As part of this, the Commission launched the VECTO tool, the first standardised methodology to simulate CO2 emissions and fuel consumption of all heavy-duty vehicles.
“The introduction of VECTO is driving tyre manufacturers to design tyres with increasingly lower rolling resistance coefficients externally verified as part of submission to the VECTO regulation,” explains Steve Howat, general manager – technical services at Continental Tyres.
“The challenge for tyre manufacturers is to continuously strive to bridge the performance conflict between tyre wear and rolling resistance to ensure that the fuel consumption benefits from energy efficient tyres is not compromised by a higher tyre replacement factor. The answer is to continuously develop even higher levels of compound technology in conjunction with contour, pattern and construction optimisation.
“A tyre specifically developed to reduce rolling resistance and lower CO2 levels has in the past had a negative impact on mileage. The challenge is to bridge this performance conflict, to ensure that the fuel consumption benefits from energy efficient tyres are not compromised by a higher tyre replacement factor. From a tyre development point of view, this is achieved by continuously developing even higher levels of compound technology, in conjunction with contour, pattern and construction optimisation.
“Bridging this conflict is now more important than ever with the new EU CO2 emissions legislation and VECTO measurement tool now live. This will mean changes in tyre selection, with fuel efficient tyres taking priority for original fitment by truck manufacturers but with durability still being considered by some fleets as the primary requirement.”
Rob Blurton, Michelin’s most senior technical field engineer in the UK and Ireland, adds: “By using innovative materials, Michelin has consistently reduced the rolling resistance of each generation of tyre.
“These include InfiniCoil, a continuous steel wire up to 400 metres long, wrapped around the tyre to provide greater tread stability, enhancing fuel savings and longevity; Regenion, which helps maintain grip throughout the tyre’s life via regenerating tread blocks which evolve as the tyre wears; and Powercoil – which helps to make each tyre lighter yet more robust, leading to better endurance and reduced rolling resistance.
“Choosing the most appropriate tyre for an operator’s conditions of use can have a great impact on the emissions coming from their fleet. It should be remembered though that this is only part of the story. Maintaining the tyres throughout their service life at the optimum tyre pressure, as well as good tyre husbandry, have a part to play as well.”
A way of extending the life of the tyre – and thereby reducing CO2 emissions – is retreading and regrooving.
“The performance of a retreaded tyre in terms of mileage potential, resistance to accidental damage, etc is similar to new,” sayd Blurton. “Regrooving offers up to 25% extra mileage potential and keeps the tyre for longer in its most fuel-efficient state.
“Retreaded tyres are manufactured using the same materials as a new tyre, with the same technologies and still offers similar performances,” Blurton adds.
Howatt agrees, noting that while premium tyres may be more expensive than lower cost tyres, the latter may not be suitable for retreading and therefore cost more to scrap and replace. “Premium tyres are designed and built with the ability to be retreaded in the future,” he says.
“As well as being a more environmentally sound option, a correctly used retread is more cost-effective in the long-term – answering both customer purchase drivers. For example, a retread costs around 70-75% of the price of a brand new tyre, offering excellent value for money and significantly reducing running costs in a competitive market.
“A retreaded tyre saves 80% of the materials required to manufacture a new tyre, therefore significantly reducing the impact on the environment. This means we are able to save 30kg of rubber compound, up to 20kg of steel and 60kg of CO2 on every retread tyre we produce compared to a new tyre.
“In addition, retreading tyres reduces scrapping, exportation and incineration of worn-out tyres which, over the course of a year, can release over 160,000 tonnes of CO2 into the air.”
This also links to sustainability, which is an increasing priority for operators and tyre manufacturers alike.
“Taking a new tyre, regrooving it, then retreading and finally regrooving again, whilst all the time correctly maintaining the tyre is a start, but there will always be a casing to dispose of at the end of the process,” says Blurton.
To address this, Michelin has recently announced that it is investing $30 million to build its first tyre recycling plant, in Chile. “The project is the result of Michelin’s ongoing collaboration with Enviro, a Swedish company that has developed a patented technology to recover carbon black, oil, steel and gas from end-of-life tyres,” says Blurton.
Located in Chile’s Antofagasta region, the plant will be able to recycle 30,000 tonnes of earthmover tyres a year, according to Michelin. Work will begin this year, with production scheduled to get underway in 2023.
“Current plans aim to use 90% of the recovered materials in a variety of rubber-based products, such as tyres, conveyor belts and anti-vibration products,” says Blurton. “The remaining 10% will be reused directly by the plant to generate its own heat and power. This initial recycling plant will enable Michelin to offer a comprehensive recycling solution, from collecting end-of-life tyres to reusing the recovered raw materials in the manufacture of new products.”
The quest for sustainability is also leading tyre manufacturers to look at materials other than rubber, such as soybean, dandelion and even rice husk ashes help to form a more sustainable production process, says Kate Norton, sales general manager commercial UK & Ireland at Goodyear.
But it isn’t just the physical tyre that manufacturers are looking at when it comes to increasing efficiency and sustainability.
Trucks and accessories are becoming increasingly automated to help increase efficiency in fleets – and therefore profitability – with telematics and other smart technologies playing a vital role in this. Many manufacturers offer suites of fleet management solutions to help to increase uptime, enhance fuel efficiency, lower the carbon footprint of fleet operations, extend the tyre service life and increase end-customer and driver satisfaction.
“Some of our smart solutions use telematics, such as the Goodyear Tyre Pressure Monitoring System, which sends a real-time alert to the driver and the operational manager whenever a tyre’s pressure is incorrect and indicates the gravity of the issue with a straightforward colour code,” explains Norton. “It might be that the tyre needs to be replaced right away or simply checked by a professional, either after the next delivery or at the next service appointment. Either way, the system will report it, helping to ensure that a vehicle’s tyres are constantly operating as sustainably as possible.”
Other systems Goodyear offers, such as FleetTracker, can track the location of the vehicle and mileage of the tyre. “[It can] transmit critical tyre pressure data to feed our unique predictive algorithm G-Predict and send colour-coded alerts that can help to prevent tyre-related issues before they even happen,” says Norton. “If a breakdown does occur, they enable the fleet manager to quickly locate the vehicle and facilitate communication with the driver.”
Of course, these solutions provide a huge amount of data, but as Norton says, data is only useful if it can be translated into action and provide clear benefits for the customer. “Today, the office of a fleet manager often looks more like a flight control centre, with multiple screens and dashboards using different algorithms and output reports to manage data from a range of different systems.
“We see huge potential for a one-stop solution integrating these different data streams and insights, with the help of a powerful AI [artificial intelligence] unit to further automate data processing and provide increased levels of intelligence.
“Commercial vehicles already incorporate a huge amount of sensors and telematics, and this number will keep increasing as the industry moves towards more autonomous technologies. Given that a tyre is the only contact between the vehicle and the road, at Goodyear, we see an intelligent tyre as the most important sensor of all. AI can be used to utilise data provided by the tyre to adapt breaking distances and handling of the vehicle, depending on road and weather conditions, as well as monitor driver behaviour, optimise fuel efficiency and even load distribution.”
Choosing the most suitable tyres
Terry Salter, UK truck and bus product manager at Bridgestone, agrees that data analysis is important. For instance, it can determine the most appropriate tyre options for a truck to use to optimise costs.
“Using fleet management systems, it is possible to track data related to the routes taken by drivers and the stops that are made,” he says. “This data can then be analysed to help determine the most suitable tyre for a given vehicle in the transport fleet.
“Vehicles that are found to drive on regional roads more than 30% of their time, for example, and that cover less than 150 miles per trip or three or more deliveries per day, would be best fitted with specialist multi-purpose tyres. Retreads, meanwhile, may be more suitable for vehicles that drive on motorways for more than 90% of their time, that cover more than 300 miles per trip or less than three deliveries per day.”
Bridgestone has also collaborated with Microsoft on a monitoring system to detect tyre damage issues in real time. “These issues are a serious matter, contributing to around 30% of all car accidents caused by technical failure,” says Salter.
“Tyre damage often cannot be detected without close, manual inspection, and can potentially occur at any time and damaged tyres can lead to accidents. They can also adversely affect other vehicle components, such as causing damage to the wheels, and thus create a further source of potential danger to motorists.
“Bridgestone’s Tyre Damage Monitoring System closes that gap and delivers real-time awareness of damage. It uses MCVP’s cloud framework together with existing sensor data, from hardware that is already installed, and uses algorithms to detect events affecting the tyre surface and carcass. The driver can then be immediately notified of the hazard and act accordingly to remedy the situation. There is currently no other equivalent monitoring system available in the market. Alternatives would require extra hardware to be installed.”
This can help with maintenance, but there is still no substitute for regular physical tyre checking in operator yards.
Salter points to a study by Bridgestone that looked at hundreds of pieces of rubber from the motorway network, in partnership with Highways England.
“It confirmed that commercial drivers and fleet operators can reduce accidents – and downtime – through regular tyre and yard checks before departures,” he says. “The study also revealed that retreaded tyres show no greater likelihood of failure than that of a first life (new) tyre.”
The study analysed 472 samples from failed commercial tyres retrieved from the M1, M6, M40, M5 and M42. It revealed that 65% of tyres failed due to road/yard debris penetration, with 6% failing due to overdeflection (e.g. under inflated) and 5% maintenance, with 19% classed as ‘indeterminate’, where no cause could be definitively ascertained and 5% was other issues.
“The results reinforce Bridgestone’s advice to conduct forecourt and vehicle tyre checks before setting off on journeys, as the company believes that much of the debris would have originated from the yard itself.”
Bridgestone’s technical manager Gary Powell, who oversaw the analysis of the debris with lead field engineer Peter Moulding and the rest of the firm’s technical department, said: “With proper vehicle inspection and maintenance programs, many of the failure methods noted may have been detectable and preventable.
“We would recommend that proper tyre maintenance and tyre husbandry management is vital for reducing downtime of vehicles resulting from tyre-related failures, in light of these results.”
Bridgestone also recommend instituting a regular sweeping/cleaning program at premises to avoid accumulating potentially damaging debris. The company also advocates regular checks of the tyre pressure to ensure it is at the right level.
“Years ago, tyres were very much viewed in isolation, but things have evolved massively and nowadays, the tyre is seen as part of a wider, more holistic mobility solutions offering; they are now an integral part of the vehicle’s total operation,” says Salter.
This article was originally published in the March 2021 issue of Commercial Vehicle Engineer magazine. To read the full issue, click here.