EU tyre labelling rules help consumers make an informed purchase decision when they replace their tyres, as the label highlights the performance of the tyre on issues relating to fuel efficiency, safety and noise. At the same time, the labels drive manufacturers to innovate and strive to have their tyres classified in the top classes in the different categories.
New labelling rules, applying from 1 May 2021, are set out under Regulation (EU) 2020/740. This replaced the previous Regulation (EC) No 1222/2009, applicable from 2012, that first introduced the obligation of labelling car and van tyres. The new rules introduce options to show if the tyres are suitable for use in severe snow conditions or in extreme climatic situations.
In specific terms, tyre labels provide a clear and common classification of tyres performance for:
i) rolling resistance,
ii) braking on wet surfaces and
iii) external noise.
The rolling resistance in a tyre is an indicator of its energy efficiency which has an impact on fuel consumption.
Different tyres can have different rolling resistance for a number of reasons, including the design and structure but also the tread compounds (amount of silica or carbon-black). The tyre pressure also affects rolling resistance, as a pressure lower than prescribed results in higher rolling resistance. For all tyre manufacturers, the challenge is to find the lowest rolling resistance that is not detrimental to other parameters, in particular safety.
Low rolling resistance tyres that are properly inflated can offer savings impacts of as much as 10%. This provides financial savings in terms of running costs or, for electric vehicles for example, enables the driver to cover a further distance before refuelling or recharging. The rolling resistance class ranges from A (most efficient) to E (least efficient). The higher the energy class, the lower the rolling resistance. (The previous label had a range from A to F.)
The wet grip class is a critical safety feature, relating to how a tyre can brake on wet roads. Tyres are rated A (the shortest braking distance) to E (the longest braking distance). The difference in each category can mean an extra 3-6 metres on the stopping distance.
The external noise relates to the noise produced by the tyre when a car passes by and is measured in dB (decibels). Noise classes range from A (less noise outside the vehicle) to B (more noise).
Under the new regulation, in addition to information on rolling resistance, breaking on wet surface and external noise, and the classes, the tyre label may display 2 additional parameters:
The label can be used as a guide as to the tyres with the lowest rolling resistance (economy / range), wet grip and external noise.
It's worth noting that the label reports just 3 performance criteria that the tyre is measured upon, tyre tests and reviews may take in up to 15 criteria whilst the tyre manufacturer will include up to 50 different criteria when designing a tyre.
Many new tyres - especially those fitted to EV's are now equipped with a sound deadening foam to reduce the vehicle interior cabin noise and this isn't necessarily clear on the label.
Some other key considerations not reported can include: dry grip, dry braking, wear rates, acceleration, steering precision and high speed stability.