Performance characteristics displayed on EU Tyre Labels.
As of 1 November 2012, all passenger tyres sold in the European Union must be labelled with an official EU tyre label. This label contains information about three important criteria that form the basis for evaluating tyre performance: wet grip, fuel efficiency and exterior noise.
Since leaving the EU, the UK still follows the EU tyre labelling rules which were updated from May 2021.
New EU rules on the energy labelling of road tyres, highlighting primarily the fuel efficiency, safety and noise performance of new tyres, start to apply at consumer level from 1 May 2021. Updating the label first introduced for car and van tyres in 2012, the new rules require that tyres for buses and lorries must now be labelled – and offer a new pictogram, where relevant, to highlight tyres suitable for use in snow or in extreme, icy conditions. The label follows the successful colour-coded classification system used for household machines, such as dishwashers and refrigerators, with 5 different classes available for rolling resistance and for braking in the wet (adjusted from the previous scale of 6 classes). It also covers 2 categories for external noise, with an indication of the value in decibels (dB).
The label is aimed at helping consumers to be better informed when buying new tyres. The indication of rolling resistance is an indicator of the tyre’s energy efficiency – thereby offering potential benefits in terms of lower fuel consumption and extending the distance that can be covered by e-vehicles between charging points. The wet grip measurement is an obvious measurement of safety, but an element that does not easily go hand in hand with the most efficient rolling resistance.
In order to account for stocks of tyres produced before May 2021, car and van tyres bearing the old label may still be sold until the end of 2021.
Tyre labelling regulation (EU) 2020/740
Tyres are responsible for between 20 and 30% of a vehicle’s fuel consumption. As a tyre rolls it uses energy and so a tyre that has a lower rolling resistance will use less energy and this has a direct impact on fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions. Choosing tyres ranked A (best) over tyres ranked G (worst) can reduce fuel consumption by up to 7.5%. This equates to a typical annual fuel saving of 120 litres or £168 (based on 12000 miles and £1.4/l). Currently D is not used on the scale to provide a clear distinction between higher and less efficient tyres.
Wet grip performance is one of the most important safety characteristics of a tyre. Tyres with good wet grip have shorter braking distances on wet roads. Two types of test are used to measure a tyres grip when braking from 50mph in wet conditions. Results are combined and ranked from A (best) to G (worst) and, like with fuel efficiency, grade D is not used to help more easily distinguish between tyres with shorter and longer braking distances. Each grade equates to a difference in braking distance of approximately 3 meters. Therefore fitting tyres ranked A over those ranked G can reduce braking distance in the wet by 18 meters, which clearly could help avert a road traffic accident.
External Rolling Noise
The inclusion of external rolling noise as a key aspect of a tyre’s performance is to encourage motorists to buy low noise tyres and thereby reduce noise pollution. A microphone measures the rolling noise of a car travelling at 50mph with the engine turned off and the results, in decibels, are given for each tyre. In addition ‘black sound waves’ are used to indicate quieter tyres (1 black sound wave) in comparison to noisier tyres (3 black sound waves). Currently 3 black sound waves is the legal limit, 2 will be a new lower limit to come into effect sometime by 2016 and 1 black sound wave is 3 decibels below this future lower limit. Three decibels may not seem a lot, but it is effectively halving the noise level.