Rising to climate-change challenges by reducing environmental effects

25th July 2019
Anna Flockett

Nokian Tyres is reducing greenhouse gas emissions by reducing the rolling resistance of its tires and cutting energy emissions from their manufacture. This socially responsible company wants to be at the forefront of combating climate change and its effects, through intervention at every stage of a tire’s lifecycle.

"Nokian Tyres manufacture tyres for different markets at our factories in Finland, Russia, and from next year, in Dayton in the United States. Our company will continue to focus on actively seeking ways and models for taking a more sustainable approach throughout a tyre’s lifecycle, from the materials stage to reusing tyre waste. Sustainability includes combatting climate change and ensuring decent conditions for the workers manufacturing tyre materials," said Teppo Huovila, who is responsible for sustainability at Nokian Tyres.

Nokian Tyres has been actively reducing the CO2 emissions of its factories by switching to lower-emission energy sources, and making manufacturing processes and production facilities more energy efficient.

Nokian Tyres have been able to reduce the CO2 emissions from the manufacture of a tyre by 38% in five years, Teppo Huovila explains.

In early October, the highly automated, state-of-the-art production lines at the Dayton plant will make it one of the most modern tyre factories in the world – including with respect to environmentally friendly production.

New raw materials and a better deal for farmers
With the EU listing natural rubber as a critical material, Nokian Tyres is actively seeking a replacement material. Near the Santa Cruz de la Zarza testing center in Spain, the company is participating in a project of farming guayule and – alongside the local university and farmers – is researching its use as a replacement for natural rubber.

Guayule, which can thrive in harsh conditions, is a completely new plant for local farmers, but it could be a replacement for relatively unprofitable crops. The plant also has broader benefits: it could increase the amount of biomass used in industry and create parallel industries, states Jukka Kasi, SVP, Products & Technologies for Nokian Tyres.

Old tyres recycled whenever possible
In the Nordic countries, tyres are over 99% sure to be recycled. This has been encouraged by including a recycling fee in the price of tyres. Recycled tyres have two main uses: cut and ground tyres are used in civil engineering, whereas the tyre materials are used for energy in facilities such as cement factories.

Tyre recycling is well organised in most European countries, but is just getting started in Russia. We are involved in the Russian scene, for example by promoting the emptying of illegal tyre dumps, Teppo Huovila explained.

Low tyre rolling resistance reduces fuel use and emissions
By choosing their tyres wisely, drivers can reduce the CO2 emissions generated while driving.

Nokian Tyres want to help drivers reduce their fuel use and CO2 emissions through tyre choices. When the tyre pressure is right, low rolling resistance tyres can help drivers save over 0.5 liters of fuel per 100km. Of course, this also reduces CO2 emissions. An economic driving style can reduce emissions by even more, said Jukka Kasi.

Aiming for even larger reductions in CO2 emissions from traffic
Nokian Tyres aims to reduce the rolling resistance of each new generation of tyres. In 2015, the company set itself the goal of reducing CO2 emissions from traffic to 500 million kilograms by 2020.

"Nokian Tyres have reached this goal and are continuing our work. In the EU, we mainly manufacture top-line Energy Class A and B tyres. Last year, up to 91 percent of the tyres sold had low rolling resistance, which reduces fuel use," said Kasi.

Safety and sustainability as the basis of product development

As part of its environmental awareness, Nokian Tyres also focuses in sustainable safety: adding features that increase tyre safety, such as tyre grip on wet surfaces, durability, and rolling resistance. These features must stay almost unchanged with time and use.

"The product development arc runs from the design table to year-round testing in laboratories and in authentic, demanding environments such as the testing center in Ivalo. Next year, we will also open a new testing center in Spain. We direct over half of our product development investments towards product testing," commented Jukka Kasi.

During product development, it is important to collaborate with car manufacturers in order to account for possible new requirements, such as those of electric cars. The aim is fast product selection updates and updates that also fulfil the special needs of electric cars.

"Depending on the tyre type and intended use, it can take years to develop a completely new car tyre that is safe in all environments. Since new products account for around a quarter of our yearly turnover, they play a key role in the achievement of our growth targets," Kasi emphasises.

Greenhouse gas emissions during a tyre’s lifecycle:
Most, or approximately 89%, of a tyre’s lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions are created during its use. Around 15-20% of a car’s fuel consumption and emissions are created by the tyre’s rolling resistance. Rolling resistance therefore has a notable effect on emissions.

Most emissions from tyre manufacture and materials are due to energy use:

• 8% of a tyre’s lifecycle emissions are created by the manufacture and transportation of materials

• 2% of a tyre’s lifecycle emissions are created by their manufacture, storage, and transportation

• Only around 0.1% are created by the recycling of used tyres.

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