The year 2015 was the best year in American automotive sales on record, with The Wall Street Journal reporting there were 17.5 million cars and light trucks sold in the U.S. Americans are also paying more on average for their vehicles. The booming industry is good news for green automotive makers, as Green Car Reports predicts one of the top trends for electric cars will be increased range, with most models boasting up to 200 miles within three years, and most costing $30,000 to $45,000 — or even lower. Oh course, you’ll need tires too.
As green driving becomes more accessible, green tires are also a hot commodity. Last year, North America alone saw $46.8 billion total in tire sales, reports the 2016 Tire Business Market Data Book. Brands like Kumho Tires are taking note by creating new eco-conscious tire products using energy-conserving materials.
Tires are significant purchases for vehicle owners. Up to 20 percent of a vehicle’s fuel consumption is transmitted to wheels, according to the Tires and Passenger Vehicle Fuel Economy: Informing Consumers, Improving Performance report by the Board on Energy and Environmental Systems and Transportation Research Board. Highway drivers use the most fuel on their tires. For those who care about both the environment and their wallets, green tires provide cost-saving benefits while doing less harm to the planet.
Before they were used on cars, leather and iron tires were used on wagons and carts. Here’s a quick overview of how the tire has developed over the years:
- 1839: Charles Goodyear, of Goodyear Tires, discovered rubber vulcanization.
- 1888: Dunlop Tires’ namesake John Boyd Dunlop created and patented a tire made of canvas bonded with liquid rubber for use on his son’s tricycle.
- 1940s: The creation of synthetic rubber began to boom. Bloomberg reports most vehicles manufactured before 1965 used bias-ply tire technology, which features an inner tube containing compressed air and an outer casing.
- 1946: Michelin filed a patent for a tire called the radial, in which cord piles are arranged radially from the center of the tire.
- 1965: Radial tires took over in dominance and continues to be popular today. Radial tires are made of rayon, polyester or nylon. An environmental advantage they give is that their longer tread life increases gas mileage, but they cost twice as much to make.
Green tires move forward
As tires come under scrutiny for their significant fuel impact on driving, tire manufacturers are developing models that use more renewably sourced materials. Developing tire creation technology that decreases rolling resistance is also a priority, as 5 to 15 percent of fuel consumption is used to overcome rolling resistance in passenger cars.
Europe is a leader of the charge for holding tire companies claiming to be green accountable. Since in 2012, it introduced tire label requirements showing European consumers fuel consumption ratings, among others. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends that anyone can boost the efficiency of their current tires by making sure they’re always properly inflated to optimize fuel consumption.
Headed towards the future
As more Americans are purchasing cars than ever before, vehicle manufacturers are responding to increasing demand for eco-friendly materials.
- TireBuyer reports Bridgestone, Firestone, Michelin, Goodyear and Continental have dedicated programs to end the use of fossil resources in manufacturing and only use sustainable materials in tires.
- Raw materials such as synthetic rubber, reinforcing fibers, carbon black and rubber compounding agents are regarded as eco-friendly in the tire market because they use less energy in creation and make tires more efficient.
- In 2015, Bridgestone announced it made its first passenger tires from 100 percent natural rubber-containing components, derived from an arid desert shrub called guayule.
- Other tire manufacturers such as Continental and Michelin are experimenting with farming new materials that can be used to create safe green tires, too.
Tire companies are trying to lessen their environmental impact in their plants and warehouses, as well. Bridgestone recycles one tire for every tire that is reduced and is constantly working to reduce its landfill and carbon dioxide impact. For tire buyers who want to maximize their tires’ “green” factor, they should examine:
- The materials used in the actual tire.
- The tire’s rolling resistance impact.
- The tire manufacturer’s warehouse practices and sustainability goals.
Eco-conscious tire consumers may also choose to purchase from companies who are investigating new green tire materials and technologies. By supporting them now, consumers can help tire developers to create long-lasting sustainable change for the future.
Feature image credit: Anna Grigorjeva / Shutterstock