“Green tyres” as pictured (the Nokian eNTYRE) are about 10-20 per cent more expensive than ordinary tyres.
An environmental commitment from the Singapore government is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 16 per cent by 2020, and one solution is for drivers to start using more “green tyres”, as concluded in a recent study conducted by Frost & Sullivan.
In one year, carbon dioxide emissions can be reduced by 352,600 tonnes in Singapore if drivers here choose to be more “green” about their tyre choices, according to the study.
That translates to about 144 million litres of fuel saved and a 5 per cent decrease in carbon dioxide emissions based on last year’s 7.1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide output in Singapore’s atmosphere.
45 per cent of this 7.1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide output came from passenger cars that make up 64 per cent of the total vehicle population recorded in Singapore for the same period.
With this observation, the study to “correlate green sentiments of drivers in the city-state to their driving habits” was done in Singapore over nine weeks with 250 drivers between 20 to 60 years of age surveyed. 30 of these had hybrid cars.
Green tyres are essentially tyres with low rolling resistance (the friction that tyres encounter when rolling) that is said to consume five per cent less fuel across all vehicle types.
As Marcus Lim, general manager of local tyre distributor Binter & Co. Pte Ltd, put it, green tyres are “tyres that combine safety and environmentally-friendly features such as low rolling resistance, competent wet grip and low noise into one product.”
He added, “What you get is basically a tyre that provides high fuel efficiency while still maintaining all the attributes of a regular premium product. More efficient fuel consumption translates into fewer carbon emissions, which basically results in a cleaner and greener environment. In layman terms, with green tyres you use less fuel to travel the same distance as a non-green tyre.”
The study found that drivers generally show concern for the environment and are trying their best to reduce carbon emission at home but not on the road.
86 per cent of the participants said they would look out for the energy labels on electrical appliances when shopping for home appliances, but only 41.6 per cent actually consult external sources when buying tyres.
Tyres are one of the most frequently replaced parts of a car, but there are drivers who are spending time and effort sourcing for the cheapest deals instead of looking for green tyres that could actually save them money in the long run and give them a cause.
According to the study commissioned by specialty chemicals company Lanxess, 81 per cent believe the Singapore Energy Logo has increased the use of energy efficient appliances and 90 per cent feel the introduction of an energy label for a wider range of products would lead to reduction of Singapore’s energy consumption.
Road grip, low rolling resistance and low noise were the top three criteria that the participants listed when choosing tyres — exactly what a green tyre focuses on.
What Singapore car drivers think
The respondents are aware that low rolling resistance reduces fuel consumption, however, the lack of an official measurement for rolling resistance is what prevents them from going for green tyres.
The study showed that 88 per cent think it is important to label environmentally-friendly products so that consumers can make informed choices and 95 per cent said they would refer to tyre labels if they were available during purchase.
Drivers like Gareth Chin, a 28-year-old business development director, has never used green tyres before but is open to the option of using them if the right guidance is given.
“To my knowledge, green tyres are tyres that save fuel and are of low rolling resistance. However, I don’t know where to get them and they sound expensive,” he said.
“I guess if the price difference between normal tyres and these green tyres can be compensated with fuel savings in the long run then it would be worth it. Then again, it also depends on whether the low rolling resistance is gained at the expense of tyre traction. It would help if there is some sort of industry benchmark we can compare to,” he added.
Indeed, green tyres cost about 10 to 20 per cent more than ordinary tyres of the same grade — a similar way to how hybrid cars cost that much more compared to its petrol equivalent.
“Some popular green tyres are the Kumho Ecowing, Bridgestone Ecopia, Nokian V, Yokohama Earth 1 and Goodyear Assurance FuelMax — all of which were launched in Singapore in the past year. Prices vary depending on the brand but generally speaking, they are sold at a slight premium (about 10 to 20 per cent more) compared to the regular product category,” Lim shared.
“At this stage, many tyre manufacturers are doing a good job in promoting their green products. However, as in all new trends, consumer education takes time. This is especially so in Singapore, where we already enjoy a very clean and healthy environment. The effects of excessive carbon emissions are not obvious in Singapore,” Lim said.
Adding to what Lim said, managing director of Asia’s first online tyre portal TyrePac Ler Hwee Tiong said, “There have been publicity efforts on green tyres but the price premium is a put off for consumers. The awareness in my opinion is gaining momentum but generally, economics triumph ecology. The main focus that consumers have is usually in the direction of which tyre gives the best fuel economy.”
To help consumers make more informed tyre purchases, the governments of the European Union have rolled out this legislation for a mandatory tyre labelling system. The legislation will have labelled ratings on tyres under three categories — fuel efficiency, wet grip and noise level — to be implemented in 2012. In Japan, there is already a voluntary obligation by the industry to label tyres since 2010.
With the vehicle growth rate to be cut next year, we can anticipate owners keeping their existing drives longer, leading to higher tyre purchases. Maybe it’s about time that we consider providing green tyre guidelines for the local automotive industry?
To this, Ler said, “The European requirement is useful, but it requires the basic of educating consumers to look out for this. The European labelling to be effected legally in 2012 is actually to assist consumers on knowing what to buy and is not simply for green tyres only. It is definitely useful, but there are more fundamental issues which should be emphasised on first, such as maintaining proper tyre pressure, learning to read tyre size, and requesting for a tyre design to suit usage of consumers.
“Anyway, most eco-friendly tyres are already labelled in some way on the tyre — on tyre size label, cured onto the tyre sidewall, or in manufacturer’s publicity materials. It is only a matter of having consumers look out for them.”
Of course, for maximum impact of reducing carbon emissions and saving fuel costs, the use of green tyres will be fully enhanced if coupled with sensible driving (go easy on the right foot) and the correct tyre pressure.