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The annual appointment in Luxemburg shone the spotlight behind the scenes of tyre labelling that comes into effect next year and is destined to revolutionize the relationship between the consumer and the product


Mino De Rigo

At less than a year from the start of the European label, an important opportunity for talking about it was the traditional appointment with Goodyear Road Safety Days in Luxemburg at the end of October. This second appointment aimed at increasing Goodyear Dunlop's role as ambassador for safety and at discussing different topics each time.
The new label, which will be compulsory from November next year, has not only redefined the industry's priorities, but primarily it is also destined to revolutionize the relationship between consumers and the product. So this was an occasion for comprehensive discussions that ranged from the aspects of the regulation to practical demonstrations, with people who have worked closely with European Commission technicians on defining the labelling rules and with the specialists who translate them into something tangible. The location was the austere hemicycle chamber that for many years hosted European Parliament meetings in Luxemburg. Going over the legislative process that began some years ago, Lie Junius, director of public affairs at Goodyear Dunlop Emea, emphasized that what is expected is "a potential annual reduction of 20 million tons of CO2 and 10 billion euros a year for the purchase of fuel and, on the other, considerable advantages for road safety. The most important aspect is that consumers will be able to buy tyres that are safer, quieter and economically and environmentally more efficient".
This is the aim of the European legislator who defined the various class levels, from the most virtuous A through to G, based on performance with regard to rolling resistance and braking on wet.


More knowledgeable choices
The third parameter shown on the label is the noise level expressed in decibels. It is represented as wave forms with 3 db increments from the quietest to the noisiest tyre. "Parameters and classification" - Junius added - "that have made the industry focus on aspects that should orient consumers towards products in the best categories. In any case, the label means more knowledge and more freedom of choice: informed consumers, in other words, who are able to compare products". And with the appropriate support of dealers whose role could be decisive.
"To understand the differences and make the best choice" - pointed out Jean Pierre Jeusette, director of the nearby Goodyear Dunlop research and innovation centre at Colmar Berg - "ask tyre specialists for advice because they can orient customers depending on the type of vehicle and driving requirements and style. The label will help them to talk to consumers about tyres that have been simply the round, black objects that the majority have taken for granted - until now". In fact the label is nothing more than the manufacturers' self-certification of the tests that have been carried out on each product. However, it is to be expected that the indications given by suppliers will be subject to verification.


"Every manufacturer" - Jeusette said - "is responsible for the correctness of the information on the label and it is important that verification attests to its credibility. At our centre, over 50 performance criteria are analyzed for each tyre. Moreover, because the European label must be applied also to winter tyres, specific tests would be advisable". Perhaps by adding an ad hoc test to those for summer tyres, but these have not yet been defined. Expected to arrive soon is the ratification of the methods used to determine rolling resistance and the approval of test procedures for measuring braking on wet by commercial and heavy vehicles.
"Although it varies depending on conditions and driving type, between a class A tyre and a class G product" - Jeusette stated - "there can be a difference of 7.5% in consumption. As far as the useful life of the tyre is concerned, the saving is over 300 euros, the cost of a new set of tyres".


A smooth ride, from the laboratory to the circuit
When they were taken to the Goodyear Dunlop R&D centre at Colmar Berg, rolling resistance was measured in the laboratory by making the wheel turn on a rotating drum under various load, pressure and speed conditions. They then went to the huge test circuit in Luxemburg for a practical test on two identical Volkswagen Golfs fitted with the greenest product in the range and one from the previous generation, both 205/55 R16: after "freewheeling" repeatedly by cutting out the engine at 50 km/h, the first Golf travelled an average distance of more than 12% compared to the second. An explicit result just like the 20-decibel difference in noise recorded inside the semi-anechoic chamber at the research centre, where road conditions are reproduced by a pair of drums, one with a smooth surface and the other with a rough surface: an automatic mechanism mounted on them positions the wheels to be tested and controls weight, torque and speed. The sound frequency spectrum is also analyzed to identify, isolate and eliminate the most disturbing noises heard inside the vehicle. It takes about two months of work, as does the time required to minimize external tyre noise. A few decibels mean a lot.


More comfort and safety
ISO-standard field measurements of external rolling noise are carried out by using two microphones positioned at 7.5 m at the sides of the central line of the carriageway along which the two identical Golfs were launched at 80 km/h with no engine power: the noise level of the one fitted with a traditional set was double that of the other one. The measurement was checked by two vehicles fitted with quieter tyres and the noise level of the two vehicles combined was equal to that of the first car. The third test is braking on wet, a safety parameter that must have a balanced ratio of rolling resistance to miles travelled. The test laboratory has a glass floor through which it is possible to take instant-by-instant photographs of tyre contact with the ground and display grip or aquaplaning conditions. It did two tests on a stretch of circuit for measuring wet braking in accordance with the method defined by Etrma (the European manufacturers' association) for vehicles. The two Golfs set off side by side at 100 km/h and then braked: the typical stopping distance on a wet road, about sixty metres, can be reduced by up to a third with a good performance tyre in the better class; 18 metres are a lot - more or less the combined length of four medium-sized saloons. So the test was repeated on the same cars and the improvement was an average of 13 metres. Experiments carried out by the Collision Safety Institute of San Diego demonstrated that even a slightly slower speed in an unavoidable collision with another vehicle makes a net contribution to limiting the probability of injury.



• Safety and new generations, ACEA's commitment


Sixteen European automotive manufacturers and an annual investment of over 26 billion euros in research and development: for ACEA, the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association, "one of the biggest slices of the budget goes to safety", explained the Association's director of safety Renzo Cicilloni. Besides, the statistics speak for themselves: in 2009, over 35,000 people were killed on European roads, more than 1.5 million were injured and the social cost of accidents reached 130 billion euros. Hence the need for an integrated approach to road safety that envisages parallel actions for vehicles, infrastructures and driving habits. Technological innovation and higher passive and active safety standards - such as those for manufacturing tyres - are playing their part, if it is true that in the last 30 years traffic has tripled but the number of accident victims has been halved. "Coming within this context" - Cicilloni emphasized - "is the project ‘Our future mobility now' launched by ACEA, which invited young people from a dozen European countries to work on these subjects". The most brilliant solutions about safe and sustainable mobility can be found in a book of ideas:

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