The importance of tyre choice
15th, January 2009
What's black and round, saves you money, protects the climate, improves your health and makes you more popular with your neighbours?
It's simple really, but who knew that choosing tyres was so important? Tyres are the dominant source of road traffic noise and determine 15-20% of a vehicle's fuel consumption and therefore CO2 emissions.
Marketing staff point out that buying tyres is a 'distress purchase' that you only do when absolutely necessary – if you're told to by a mechanic, when the tread is worn down, or with the change of seasons. Despite all the possible advantages of choosing energy-efficient and quiet tyres, most drivers still opt for the cheapest that fits, or the one recommended by the car maker.
With fuel prices at a record high, and increasing awareness about climate change, tyre makers are seeing their energy-efficient models becoming more popular. But for the moment, we only have the manufacturers' word that these models will actually save fuel, money and greenhouse gases. And there's no way to know which models will give you a quieter life.
The quiet ones can make all the difference. If all the vehicles on a busy road had tyres three decibels quieter than the current average – these quiet tyres are already on the market – the noise reduction would be equivalent to halving the traffic. For the 210 million Europeans suffering long-term exposure to potentially dangerous traffic noise, this could literally be a life or death decision.
Every year, 200 000 people across Europe suffer heart or blood pressure problems, and 50 000 fatal heart attacks are provoked by traffic noise.
The EU is currently working on a regulation which will set maximum noise standards and minimum fuel efficiency standards for tyres. These are long overdue and very welcome, but they won't go far enough to ensure we can all buy the most efficient, quiet and safe models available. They also won't in any way make buying tyres a more rewarding experience.
For the moment, customers are almost completely reliant on the recommendation of the garage/manufacturer or guessing how cheap they can go without risking wear or safety. How about handing some power back to customers by showing them exactly what each model can do for them in terms of safety, fuel savings and noise reduction? It needn't be complicated or confusing. T&E has demonstrated how all this information could be presented in one label.
Once we know what tyres can do for us, more and more drivers will ask for better quality tyres, which will lead to a quieter life for all of us, save energy and get us closer to reaching climate targets.