A rounded view: Developing a ground-breaking lifecycle analysis model to deliver sustainable tyres
How do you go about improving a product when its performance is governed by a complex set of sometimes-conflicting parameters?
It’s a dilemma that tyre engineers already face when it comes to the trade-offs found in ‘the magic triangle’ of wet grip, rolling resistance and durability. But add environmental sustainability into that equation and the complexity increases by another order of magnitude. Suddenly, what appears to be a positive change can turn out to have a negative impact once it’s played out across the whole life-cycle of the tyre.
“Carrying out the life-cycle analysis of a tyre raises some quite complex questions,” comments Gunnlaugur Erlendson, CEO and founder of ENSO Tyres. “For instance, is it better to make the tyre more energy efficient, so the vehicle consumes less electricity and reduces its carbon footprint, or to make the tyre more durable, so it emits less particulate matter and you don’t need to replace it as often? Similarly, is it better to make the tyre out of less carbon-intensive materials like natural rubber or should you focus on using synthetic materials from fossil fuels that may last longer?”
The more you look into this, the more complex it becomes. That’s why ENSO Tyres has with the support of TDAP developed a bespoke life-cycle analysis model to assist with its work on environmentally sustainable tyres for electric vehicles.
The model was created as part of project aided by the Advanced Propulsion Centre’s Technology Developer Accelerator Programme (TDAP). Support from the programme included a grant of £104,500, which enabled the company to evaluate the contributing factors in a tyre’s life-cycle and their impact, from the raw materials, production, tyre use-cycle and the end-of-life.
“This sort of model didn’t really exist previously,” comments Erlendson. “We really were ploughing green fields, and it’s something that’s gone on to form the basis of the discussions that we’ve now had with a number of major OEMs. That’s probably the single biggest benefit that we’ve had from the TDAP programme.”
Taking part in the programme has also helped Erlendson and his colleagues understand more about their potential customers, he explains: “We applied for the TDAP programme at a very early stage, so we hadn’t worked directly with any of the OEMs at that point. One of the things that helped us was the feedback from the various experts within TDAP, including representatives from those OEMs.”
The timing of the programme also has coincided with a growing interest in the environmental footprint of tyres, and in particular the prospect that non-exhaust PM emissions from tyres could be included in future vehicle regulations. This is an area in which ENSO Tyres is now uniquely qualified to respond – thanks in part, to the analysis tool that it developed through the TDAP programme.