Environmental and safety goals guide our innovations
Our tyres are designed for drivers who demand safety, durability and comfort under all conditions. The principle of sustainable safety in our product development includes a promise of developing eco-friendly products and production technologies. The development process of a new tyre takes 2 to 4 years.
Consumers’ tyre choice should be based on the tyre’s suitability for their use scenario and driving style. For example, a contractor who operates heavy machinery requires a different type of tyre than someone who drives a passenger car. In line with our global product policy, we offer tailored products and precision innovations for various circumstances and markets.
Key measures in 2017:
- In 2017, Nordic winter tyres that deliver high ice grip amounted to 53% of our entire winter tyre range (73% in 2016).
- The proportion of tyres that reduce fuel consumption through ultra-low rolling resistance was 90% (compared to 87% in 2016).
- Of our summer tyre products, 100% were in the very high wet grip category. (99.5% in 2016).
- Our premium tyres with low rolling resistance and high wet grip correspond to categories A, B and C of the EU tyre label. The share of ABC tyres was 68%.
- We reduced rolling resistance by 7% from 2013 to 2017.
Rigorous standards guide our development efforts
Before tyres are delivered from our production to customers, they undergo several tests depending on the market, which examine the tyre’s behaviour in a range of conditions as well as its durability and eco-friendliness. On average, a winter tyre goes through 20 approval tests conducted by the authorities or their appointed accredited research laboratories.
Communities, regions (such as the EU) and organisations (such as the UN) have all specified standards that a tyre must meet before entering the market. Our large markets – the Nordic countries, Central Europe, Russia and the United States – use a total of 28 tyre tests that examine the properties of finished products and their behaviour under various conditions. In addition to this, some regions subject tyres to their own additional tests, mostly concerning safety.
Each testing organisation uses its own testing practices. Most tests must be carried out by an accredited testing laboratory. The EU and UN tests, for example, may only be performed by a research laboratory which is audited and appointed by the national approval authority and which has received international accreditation in compliance with ISO 17025.
The high quality and compliance of tyres are tracked and monitored through testing. There are up to 300 different laboratory and driving tests that can be performed on a tyre at the product development stage. Before a new product can enter the market, it has to comply with several national and international standards and pass tests by independent parties.
As has happened several times before, the requirements concerning the eco-friendliness and safety of tyres were tightened in 2017. New developments occur at a different pace in different regions and, as a result, we are constantly subject to new requirements and changes.
In the past year, for example, we prepared for the 2018 wet grip requirement in the European market, which applies to all van and light truck tyres on the market. We also anticipated the stricter rolling resistance limits for passenger car, van and light truck tyres, which will become effective in 2018. The upcoming change applies to all tyres on the market.
In the Nordic countries, Norway harmonised its studded tyre legislation in 2017 to match the Finnish and Swedish legislation. Therefore, the Nordic countries now have consistent requirements for studded tyres.
Raw materials enter production through the laboratory
In addition to rubber compounds, we use steel, textiles and other reinforcing materials in tyre production. Rubber compounds contain natural rubber, synthetic rubber, oils and fillers, such as carbon black and silica as well as sulfur and various chemicals. A tyre typically contains 50% polymers, 30% fillers and 20% reinforcing materials, softeners and chemicals.
In our production, we only use raw materials that have been approved by our laboratory. Before raw material batches can be used in rubber compounds, they must wait until our laboratory clears them for production. Read more about our raw material procurement.
New steps towards renewable raw materials and material efficiency
The principle of sustainable safety in our product development includes a promise of developing eco-friendly products and production technologies. In line with our strategy, we actively look for and test renewable raw materials. Our aim is to find bio-based raw materials for various raw material groups, create eco-friendlier tyres and replace fossil raw materials. We will also reduce the use of harmful substances, thereby improving occupational safety in production. Renewable raw materials are also used for improving tyres’ properties and performance.
We have carried out extensive work on renewable raw materials because the use of new raw materials requires a great deal of product development efforts and testing in order to find the best combination of properties for a tyre. In materials development, the outset is that the introduction of renewable materials must not alter a tyre’s product or safety characteristics.
We have made the furthest progress in the use of renewable raw materials with bio-based oils. They are used in order to replace synthetic oils that are based on crude oil. The new winter tyres that we launched in 2017 use a rubber compound with a bio-based softener that improves the tyres’ safety characteristics. A similar bio-based softener is also used in the new products for 2018.
For 2018’s new products, we have also developed new kinds of grip particles, whose raw material comes from a secondary flow in bioindustry. In addition to delivering better safety characteristics for tyres, the grip particles improve material circulation in society. We conduct forward-looking research in order to investigate the use of recycled rubber sourced from used tyres as a replacement for fossil carbon black.
The use of renewable raw materials has not required us to change our production processes or had any significant effects on the energy consumption in production. However, renewable raw materials often increase the raw material costs of tyres.
Guayule project near our testing and technology centre to employ farmers and find a replacement for natural rubber
We are constructing a new testing and technology centre in Santa Cruz de la Zarza, Spain, which is located south of Madrid. In particular, the centre will be used for testing summer tyres with a high speed rating as well as winter tyres. The research and development initiatives in the area will explore the use of the guayule plant as a replacement for natural rubber.
The EU has included natural rubber on the list of critical raw materials and encourages member states to secure its production. We participate in this effort by sponsoring a project by local farmers in Santa Cruz de la Zarza that tests growing guayule. Guayule can replace natural rubber in tyre manufacture.
Guayule is an opportunity not only for Nokian Tyres but also for the local agriculture and industry.
27 different species of guayule that can withstand drought, cold and heat are cultivated in a half-hectare area. For the local farmers, the new crop, which can survive in harsh conditions, is a suitable alternative for the unprofitable cereal farming. The cultivation of guayule will also develop local seedling production and the use of biomass by industry, improve logistics and create parallel industries.
The technology centre is scheduled to be complete by 2020. The centre employs 200 people at the construction stage and some 40 employees after it is finished. Furthermore, it has a significant indirect employment impact in the transportation, service and logistics industries. The potential environmental impacts at the construction stage are minimised, among other things, by taking the nesting of birds into consideration, planting trees and landscaping the area.
The lower the rolling resistance, the lower the fuel consumption
Rolling resistance means the energy consumed by the deformation during the road contact of the tyre. Rolling resistance may vary greatly between different tyres: tyres with low rolling resistance may save more than 0.6 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres and reduce CO2 emissions by 14 g/km.
The tyre’s deformation and the amount of energy it requires can be influenced with structural and material choices in tyre design. Examples of factors that affect energy consumption include the temperature of the tyre, inflation pressure, wheel load and tyre wear as well as drag and turbulence due to the driving speed.
Improving the fuel economy of tyres is one of our most significant product development targets in the near future. Through determined and long-term product development, we have managed to reduce the rolling resistance of our new tyres even further. We have achieved this by improving the tread patterns and tread compounds, among other things.
Rolling resistance is expressed with a rolling resistance coefficient: the greater the coefficient, the heavier the tyre rolls. At the moment, class C is the most common fuel economy rating for Nokian Tyres’ passenger car tyres according to the EU tyre label. Class B is the second most common class. The EU tyre label reports fuel efficiency on a scale from A to G. A difference of approximately 40% in rolling resistance results, on average, in a difference of 5–6% in fuel consumption. Such a difference may occur, for example, between tyres with a class A and class F fuel efficiency rating, respectively. A wise choice of tyres and a careful driving style significantly reduce the CO2 emissions from driving.
The most significant product innovations in 2017
In product development, our goal is that the new tyres that we bring to the market always have better properties than the previous models. The tyres that we launched and developed in 2017 deliver better safety, eco-friendliness and precise handling. Innovations in material and tread pattern development improve safety. For better eco-friendliness, we have lowered the rolling resistance, thereby reducing fuel consumption. We also pay constant attention to ensuring that our studded winter tyres have minimal road wear.
We introduced new stud technology on the market
In early 2017, we launched the Nokian Hakkapeliitta 9 and Nokian Hakkapeliitta 9 SUV winter tyres that feature a new kind of stud technology. As a result of extensive product development, different types of studs in different parts of the tyre provide additional safety in various driving scenarios. This patented functional studding solution is unique on the market and it ensures both great longitudinal grip and unparalleled lateral grip when cornering under winter conditions. It also provides stable and comfortable bare-road handling.
We also launched the Nokian Nordman 7 and Nokian Nordman 7 SUV winter tyres that supplemented our winter tyre range aimed at different consumer groups.
The key markets for both product families are the Nordic countries, Russia and North America.
Nokian Hakka Black 2 and Hakka Black 2 SUV completed the Hakka summer tyre range
Our new summer tyres emphasise safety under varying Northern conditions.
The tyres feature a new generation rubber compound that improves wet grip and reduces the loss factor, thereby lowering the temperature. This reduces the rolling resistance and, in turn, fuel consumption. The tyres’ surface structure enhances traction and braking grip. Product development also emphasised tyre durability and longer service life: the fibre used in the sidewalls is more resistant to impacts and cuts, and stone ejectors prevent the tyre tread from picking up sharp stones that could damage the carcass.
The key markets for the Nokian Hakka summer tyres are the Nordic countries and Russia.
Nokian Hakkapeliitta R3 and Nokian Hakkapeliitta R3 SUV
We launched the Nokian Hakkapeliitta R3 and R3 SUV non-studded winter tyres for passenger cars and SUVs in spring 2018. The key goal of product development has been improving the summer and winter characteristics of non-studded winter tyres.
The Nokian Hakkapeliitta R3 tyres feature innovations that significantly improve the safety characteristics compared to our previous products and similar competing tyres. For example, we have improved the properties by using a bio-based softener in the tread compound, which helps keep the compound elastic even in low temperatures. Bio-based grip particles work together with the rubber compound to improve the grip properties.