THE tailpipe has become the focus of our concern for air quality pollutants. And quite rightly.
Premature deaths, and lung disease are just two of the reasons air quality has become essential to tackle.
And fleets and leasing companies are pivoting towards ultra low emission vehicles as a strategy to lower the impact of cars on the environment.
But as we head towards the banning of Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles in 2035 our clean air radar should be turning towards a different type of pollution. Tyres.
According to the Air Quality Expert Group (AQEG) – an Expert Committee to Defra – has called for urgent action to address the problem of tyres and brakes, which is predicted to account for 10 per cent of national emissions of PM 2.5 by 2030.
Former Environment Minister, Thérèse Coffey, said at the time:
“Emissions from car exhausts have been decreasing through development of cleaner technologies and there is now a need for the car industry to find innovative ways to address the challenges of air pollution from other sources.”
And that’s exactly what students from the Imperial College London have invented.
Tyre Collective develops tyre particle collector
Calling themselves the Tyre Collective – whose statement we have used as the headline for this piece – the students have invented a collection device that attaches close to the wheel and prevents the dispersal of up to 60% of airborne tyre particles.
— The Tyre Collective (@Tyre_Collective) March 4, 2020
Tyre pollution will become increasingly important as we move towards EVs and zero emissions, simply because EVs weigh more thanks to the heavy battery. Therefore tyre abrasion is greater.
The Tyre Collective says EVs have been responsible for increasing tyre wear emissions from 7 kilotonnes in 2015 to nearly 10 kilotonnes by 2030 in the UK.
The device is currently on a test bench producing the tyre pollution production figures, but it does highlight the different responses that will be needed to this issue.
Below is a video showing how the Tyre Collective’s invention works.
Goodyear develops reCharge concept – renewable tyres
Tyre maker Goodyear has taken a different approach.
It has released details of its ingenious self-regenerating tyre concept. It’s a tyre that can adapt and change to meet different individual mobility requirements says Goodyear.
The reCharge concept uses a reloadable and biodegradable tread compound. As the tyre wears another capsule can be inserted into the tyre hub to recharge and regenerate the tyre tread. The compound would be tailored to the driver thanks to AI profiling of driver style, road surfaces and climatic conditions.
As the compound is biodegradable, there are no pollution concerns.
Mike Rytokoski, Goodyear Europe’s vice-president and chief marketing officer, says:
“Goodyear wants the tyre to be an even more powerful contributor to answering consumers’ specific mobility needs. It was with that ambition that we set out to create a concept tyre primed for the future of personalised and convenient electric mobility.”
You can see how the reCharge concept tyre works in the video below.
Electric vehicles are ‘no panacea’
Dr Jody Muelaner, writing in the Institution of Mechanical Engineers website, writes about why electric cars won’t stop pollution.
The piece is quite sobering and again demonstrates how one-dimensional is our thinking if we believe road transport pollution is simply eliminated by the EV switch.
Dr Muelaner writes:
“The rapid development of electric vehicles can give the impression that road transport is becoming sustainable. Electric cars are sometimes seen as a panacea for the environmental impact of transport. They are not.”
He goes on to say that existing technologies, such as urban rapid transport and bicycles, were better answers to public health. And adds:
“As engineers our duty should not only be to develop products that follow the latest trends. It is our responsibility to identify and promote the most appropriate engineering solutions to the problems facing our society.”
Meanwhile the European Tyre & Rubber Manufacturers’ Association (ETRMA) has published a paper entitled the Way Forward Report.
This proposes to look at current research gaps and to develop new technologies to reduce the impact of tyres on the environment.
This includes new forms of tyre and road composition, and road drainage capture systems for storm run off.
In the meantime, EVs continue to offer a short cut to welcome cleaner air.
But new developments in tyre technology – such as the Michelin Uptis airless tyre – will help to reduce the danger of the unseen sources of pollution: tyres.