From November 2012, all new car tyres are set to get an explanatory information label giving consumers extra data about potential new rubber purchases. Similar to colour-coded environmental labels used on white goods, they are being launched to help show consumers how safe and green tyres are at a glance.
The label system has been campaigned for by Environmental Protection UK and has been carefully devised to help the general public, as well as fleet managers and maintenance companies, make informed decisions about the rubber they buy.
The info system will highlight wet grip levels and rolling resistance/fuel efficiency in coloured bands from A (greenest, most grip) to G (least green, least grip). The A to G ratings will be colour coded too, from green to red.
External road noise will also be displayed on the side of the tyre. Split into three categories, the tyre's decibel level will be rated by black sound waves – one sound wave for the quietest rising to three for the noisiest.
All this information will help consumers, many of whom consider tyres to simply be (expensive) black rubber circles, better understand the merits of different brands. To many, rubber is considered to be a dark art with compounds, tread patterns and sizes all changing the performance of a vehicle. However, with the new info label, confusion over rubber will hopefully be a thing of the past.
The differences between different tyres can be great. According to Environmental Protection UK, in terms of fuel efficiency, the difference between each grade (A-G) can be as much as 4.5% with the difference in the levels of wet grip anywhere between three and six metres at 50mph.
These are huge differences, which many tyre buyers are currently unaware of. With this key information set to be more clearly displayed, the new scheme will hopefully inform those who previously dismissed tyres as a uniform necessity that with rubber, you get what you pay for.
For a few extra pounds, consumers could buy a set of tyres that will give vastly improved braking performance and wet grip levels over a cheaper budget tyre. With a decrease in stopping distance of up to six metres in the wet, that could be the difference between a close scare and a devastating road accident.
Certainly a sobering thought. Will the new tyre label system, when it is introduced late next year, thus lead to a significant safety and economy boost for every new tyre buyer who is aware of it? The effects on buying patterns in the months following its launch will be very interesting indeed: can safety and the environment really outweigh the lure of saving cash?