eco-friendly tyres

these tyres come in green

What contribution can environmentally-friendly tyres really make to saving the planet? Matt Low tried Continental's ContiEcoContact low rolling resistance tyres to find out.

Reducing CO2 emissions has become big business within the motoring industry. Car manufacturers have begun channelling vast sums of cash into developing new and existing technology that will lower their vehicles' effect on the environment. Catchy new buzzwords like hybrid, fuel-cell and common-rail injection are now an established part of the motoring vocabulary and it seems you can't turn a corner without coming across an advert for a new car promising less waste and a greener future.

But what about those drivers who want to do their bit but don't have the resources to invest heavily in a brand-new hybrid car with cutting edge green technology? What steps can the average driver take to lower their own CO2 emissions? As Continental discovered when developing their new range of tyres, a few simple and affordable measures can be taken to make a surprisingly big impact.

Continental's ultra-efficient ContiEcoContact 3 tyre shows how tyre design and development can help reduce the effect on the environment. It has been designed with very low rolling resistance and if fitted to the average family car, could up its fuel efficiency by around 5%. This translates into fuel savings of roughly 56 litres for an average car's annual mileage. That's a 135kg reduction in CO2 emissions per year.

One of the key ways to reduce rolling resistance is to reduce the weight of the tyre meaning less force is needed to move from a standing start. Continental constantly review the materials used in tyre production to try and ensure the weight is optimised, the result is that the Continental passenger tyre range is one of the lightest in the market.

Another way of supporting the environment is to ensure you buy a tyre with an optimum wear rate. Continental has been working towards and is achieving improved wear rates on its new tyres and the Vanco 2 is a good example of this. This tyre gives an average of 20% extra mileage over its predecessor, the Vanco. Tyres are designed to withstand extremely harsh conditions so recycling them can be an expensive business. The longer a tyre lasts on your vehicle, the less call there is to take it somewhere for recycling.

One very simple and extremely effective measure you can take to ensure your car is not churning out excess CO2 emissions is to ensure your vehicle's tyres are inflated properly at all times. This can have a dramatic effect on fuel consumption and when inflated to optimum levels will lower CO2 emissions. Incorrect inflation impacts on rolling resistance and therefore fuel consumption. 20% under inflation reduces tyre lift by 25% and increases tyre rolling resistance by 10% to 12% which can cause the vehicle to use up to 3% more fuel. 20% over inflation reduces tyre life by 10%.

Vehicle handbooks recommend that tyre pressures should be increased to compensate for the extra weight inside the vehicle. Failure to do so results in the tyre being overloaded which means heat builds up and the tyre's life is reduced. Overloading by just 10% can reduce the tyre's lifespan by as much as 17%, so this is another easy step to improve your environmental performance.

Fitting lightweight and durable tyres to your car doesn't just mean reduced CO2 emissions, you'll be glad to hear it also means more money for you. After all, the more miles-per-gallon you can squeeze out of your tank, the less time you spend at the pump and the more money you save.