Altroconsumo, tests on eco-sustainable summer tyres, good results but still gaps

On the occasion of the obligatory transition from winter on April 15th

In view of the imminent obligation to switch to summer tyres, to be carried out starting from 15 April and no later than 15 May 2023, Altroconsumo, leader in tire tests for EU consumer associations within the Automobil Club consortium, in order to help consumers navigate the various tire choices available, shared the new test results on the main sizes on its website. Consumers can thus compare the prices of the various tires on the market and choose higher classes both for safety reasons and for the possibility of saving fuel and polluting less. From this year onwards, 70% of the overall judgment is made up of the safety guaranteed by the tires and the remaining 30% from the environmental impact.

In general, it emerges from Altroconsumo’s tests that summer tires performed quite well, but there are still some products that have shortcomings, mainly due to the short life of the product. Fuel consumption is directly linked to the emission of CO2 and other substances harmful to the climate and health. A tire can influence it through its resistance to rolling on the road: the higher it is, the more fuel it will need to move the car. To measure this consumption, the various tires were made to travel the same distance at the same speed on two runs, five times: in the end, the number of liters of fuel needed to travel 100 km was measured. Altroconsumo has enriched the evaluation of this parameter with the measurement of the weight of the tyre, which influences the acceleration and braking of the car, and therefore also the fuel consumption (as well as the consumption and abrasion of the rubber itself). The lighter the tire, the less fuel consumption there will be. In general, summer tires are good from this point of view: the difference in fuel consumption between the best and the worst is less than 5%.

The life of the rubber is also a crucial factor, for savings and for the environment: the longer the tire resists (in safe conditions), the less I will need to replace it, the less resources it will need to produce new ones. To evaluate it, Altroconsumo travels 15,000 kilometers over several cycles and each time we measure several points of the tread with a laser system to check the remaining depth. Abrasion measurement has also been added this year, i.e. the amount of tread that is dispersed into the environment during use. The evaluation takes place by checking the weight loss in milligrams of the tire at defined intervals. Summer tires are acceptable on average in terms of duration, but the results are also very variable: they range from an estimated useful life of just over 20,000 kilometers to over 40,000 kilometres. The best tire in this parameter therefore lasts more than twice as long as the one with the most negative rating.

Noise pollution caused by the friction of the rubber on the asphalt is also included in the judgement. The car is driven at different speeds on two road surfaces (one asphalt and one more similar to concrete); then the noise produced is measured with a sound level meter, both inside the passenger compartment and outside. In general, summer tires are acceptable. Altroconsumo did not identify noisy tires even if, at the same time, none of the products proved to be very quiet.

Various parameters are included in the evaluation of the “sustainability of production and disposal”: for example the place of origin (to evaluate the impact of transport and local regulations relating to pollution), the presence of production residues which can be in the first kilometres, the production protocols followed and the environmental certifications. These last two parameters, in particular, should guarantee greater attention in the choice of raw materials and in the production phase of the product in general, thus giving interesting indications regarding the environmental impact of tires in the production phase and in the disposal phase.

The sustainability of a product is made up of many parts. There is the purely ecological and environmental aspect: in the case of tyres, in addition to all the evaluated elements described (lifetime, noise, fuel consumption, tread dispersion in the environment) Altroconsumo evaluates, by weighing the tyres, also how much material used for their production: Lightweight tires not only require fewer resources, but also have a positive effect on fuel consumption. To understand how the weight of these products can be different, consider that the lightest summer tires in the 2023 test weigh 2.3 kg less than the heavier ones (for four tyres, this is a weight and material saving of no less than 10 kg about).

Then there’s the issue of economic sustainability: it’s about how efficient the product is compared to its cost. To evaluate this aspect, the life of the tire is central, i.e. how many kilometers it can cover before needing to be replaced. The more eco-friendly tires also have good economic as well as environmental sustainability because, in fact, they last longer: for example, there are products that last around 70,000 kilometers and are perhaps a little more expensive and other very cheap tires which, however, need to be replaced even after only 23 thousand kilometers. Savings on purchase are totally nullified in practice if it is necessary to change them more often.

Last but not least, there is the social responsibility of the product: safe tires bring a social benefit because they reduce the risk of accidents, which is why Altroconsumo’s safety assessments in tests are also important from the point of view of sustainability; moreover, not having too much impact on the environment is also a matter of responsibility towards the community, as is obtaining certifications to guarantee correct production protocols, respect for workers, the place where it is produced.