Tyre LCA

Life Cycle Assessment

During 2000 and part of 2001, BLIC (previous European structure of the tyre and rubber industry) made a full Life Cycle Assessment study (LCA) of a representative European 195/65 R15 passenger car tyre (summer H rated new carbon black and silica based tread tyres). This study related purely to car tyres, and did not include truck tyres analysis, although such a study is planned for the future.

A well-established and prominent external LCA practitioner, PRé Consultants of the Netherlands, was commissioned to perform the actual LCA study, which was then critically reviewed by another prestigious LCA specialist, CIT Ekologik, part of the Swedish Chalmers Industriteknik group.

In the first part, the LCA report showed the current environmental load from an average car tyre throughout the life cycle in the European Union. In the second part, the LCA study provided insight for tyre manufacturers into the possibilities for improvement of environmental performance of car tyres.

Two versions of the H rated summer car tyre 195/65 R15 were analysed:

  • a version with a traditional tread with carbon black as a filler, and
  • a version in which the carbon black in the tread was partly replaced by a silica compound

The main findings relating to environmental impacts throughout a car tread's life cycle show:

  • The use phase makes the highest contribution to the environmental load.
  • The most important aspect during the use phase is the fuel consumption that can be attributed to the rolling resistance.
  • That over the life cycle, silica model car tyres make a lower environmental impact than those with a traditional tread, having carbon black as a filler. The main difference between the two versions related to the rolling resistance level in the use phase.
  • Car tyre/road contact noise is potentially an important aspect, but its specific magnitude cannot yet be determined.
  • Car tyre debris emitted during the use phase contributes a relatively modest amount to the overall life cycle compared with fuel consumption induced by the rolling resistance phenomena, and lower than the car tyre's contribution to engine exhaust emissions.
  • The average end-of-life scenario makes a relatively small contribution to the overall load of the life cycle.

A significant point from the LCA is that the global magnitude of these environmental impacts during the use phase can be largely influenced by external factors, such as driver behaviour. The tyre producers understand that they need to address this aspect as well, and will increase efforts towards a better education of consumers.

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