Fuel Saving Tires To Hit The Road

New tire labeling is an important step toward improved fuel efficiency, lower CO2 emissions and greater safety / New vehicles have to be fitted with fuel-saving tires from 2011.

Specialty chemicals group LANXESS AG, the world's leading producer of synthetic rubber and rubber chemicals, welcomes the latest decisions by the European Parliament to make safe, environmentally friendly vehicle tires obligatory. The use of such tires will lead to a significant reduction in CO2 emissions on Europe's roads.

"With our modern high-performance rubber products, we can enable the tire industry to comply already with the EU's strict requirements on safer, environmentally friendlier tires," says Axel C. Heitmann, Chairman of the Board of Management of LANXESS AG. LANXESS expects the new regulations to bring a lasting, positive boost to the European tire industry and to the Leverkusen-based specialty chemicals company in its capacity as one of the world's leading suppliers.

Only today, the European Parliament in Strasbourg passed a resolution that, from 2012 onwards, tires must have details of their fuel efficiency, wet grip and rolling noise marked on them. The tires are to be categorized in a system of classes, with the best performance being labeled "Class A" and the poorest "Class G". This system will offer consumers an important decision-making aid when purchasing new tires. It will play a significant role for the tire industry and its suppliers such as LANXESS because around 75 percent of all the tires sold in Europe are, according to experts, bought to replace old, worn out tires.

The EU Parliamentarians had already voted in mid-March that fuel-saving tires should become obligatory for new vehicles in Europe from 2011. Last year alone, more than 15 million new vehicles were registered in Europe. The aim of this regulation is to improve the safety and environmental compatibility of vehicles. To give the automotive industry time to adapt, transition periods are planned. Both decisions still require approval by the Council of the European Union.

According to the European Commission, a car's tires are responsible for 20 percent of its fuel consumption - in other words one in every five tankfuls. "Because the number of vehicles worldwide will double within the next 25 years, the widespread use of innovative tire technologies is essential if we are to use fuels more efficiently and slow down climate change," says Heitmann. As the technology leader and major development driver in the rubber industry, the Leverkusen-based specialty chemicals company has the world's broadest range of synthetic rubber.

Lower fuel consumption plus maximum safety

Environmentally friendly tires produced with high-performance rubber from LANXESS have lower rolling resistance and therefore save fuel. The reduction in fuel consumption, in turn, cuts down the discharge of CO2 and lowers the impact on the environment. If all vehicles were equipped with such tires, around six billion liters of fuel could be saved every year in Europe alone, leading to a reduction in CO2 emissions of about 15 million metric tons. "Our innovative technologies also help to make these energy-saving tires safer and longer-lasting," says Werner Breuers, a member of the Board of Management of LANXESS AG, highlighting some additional advantages. The high-tech materials produced by LANXESS make it possible to extend the "Magic Triangle" of tire technology: to combine low rolling resistance with good wet grip - in other words a shorter braking distance - and long service life.

It's the right rubber compound that makes the difference

As the leading supplier of innovative high-tech rubber, LANXESS attaches major importance to research and development. Functionalized rubber grades play a key role in environmentally friendly tires. One possibility for optimization is the more intelligent use of the filler silica in the treads of the tires - namely by improving the distribution of the silica in the rubber compound.

In the latest generation of solution styrene-butadiene rubber (SSBR), which is currently at the development stage at LANXESS, significant further improvements have been made in the incorporation of the silica filler into the rubber network. As a result, the service life can be increased, adherence to the road improved, rolling resistance reduced and the abrasion of the tires lowered. In addition, LANXESS is already able to offer rubber grades with environmentally friendly processing fluids, making it one of the first producers to comply with the European Union's environment regulations due to come into force in 2010.

Over and above that, butyl rubber from LANXESS makes an important contribution to maintaining air pressure, both in inner tubes and in the inner rubber layer of tubeless tires. The correct tire pressure also helps to save fuel and reduce CO2 emissions. It is an important safety factor as well.

LANXESS rubber chemicals also help in the manufacture of environmentally friendlier tires. The additive Vulcuren, for example, ensures that the tire treads harden and age more slowly even under maximum load. As a result, the tire maintains more constant wet and dry skid resistance during its lifetime.

Nanoprene from LANXESS: Small particles with a big effect

Nanoprene is a new product from LANXESS for tire treads containing silica. Through the use of this innovative high-performance rubber additive, abrasion resistance is improved even further. The additive prolongs the mileage of the tires by 15 percent, enhances grip by the same amount and also reduces rolling resistance. The key to this development is the small size and the surface functionality of the Nanoprene particles. In chemical terms, this additive, which is produced at LANXESS in a highly specialized production process, consists of particles of only around 50 nanometers of a rubber compound. The nanoparticles have special "anchor points" on their surface enabling them to interact with the silica filler - an important development leap in tire production.

Supplier to nearly all international tire manufacturers

LANXESS last year achieved around one quarter of its overall sales with rubber products for the tire industry. The specialty chemicals group supplies virtually every international tire manufacturer with rubber, plasticizers, crosslinking agents, antioxidants and vulcanization accelerators.

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