Emissions Analytics, an independent global testing and data company that studies real-world emissions and fuel efficiency for passenger and commercial vehicles, has found that pollution from tire wear can be 1,000 times worse than what comes out of a vehicle’s exhaust pipe.
Unlike exhaust pollution, tire and brake pollution is mostly unregulated. These other types of pollutants from a vehicle are referred to as non-exhaust emissions (NEE).
According to Emissions Analytics, NEEs are currently defined as “particles released into the air from brake wear, tyre wear, road surface wear and resuspension of road dust during on-road vehicle usage.”
Emissions Analytics says that NEEs are believed to constitute the majority of primary particulate matter from road transport. The 2019 report “Non-Exhaust Emissions from Road Traffic” by the United Kingdom Government’s Air Quality Expert Group recommended that NEEs be recognized as a major source of pollution.
To determine what the effect of NEEs are on the environment, Emission Analytics conducted initial tire wear testing. They used a hatchback running on new, properly inflated tires and found that the car emitted 5.8 grams per kilometer of particles.
Current exhaust emission limits in the U.K. are 4.5 milligrams per kilometer. That means that the team found that NEEs pollute the environment 1,000 times more than the maximum allowable exhaust amount.
Emissions Analytics noted, along with the results, that this number could be even higher if the vehicle’s tires were under inflated or if the road surfaces were rougher.
Richard Lofthouse, Senior Researcher at Emissions Analytics expressed concern regarding the findings, “It’s time to consider not just what comes out of a car’s exhaust pipe but particle pollution from tyre and brake wear. Our initial tests reveal that there can be a shocking amount of particle pollution from tires – 1,000 times worse than emissions from a car’s exhaust. What is even more frightening is that while exhaust emissions have been tightly regulated for many years, tyre wear is totally unregulated – and with the increasing growth in sales of heavier SUVs and battery-powered electric cars, non-exhaust emissions are a very serious problem.”
There are ways to reduce the effect of NEEs coming from your vehicle, including making sure that your tires are properly inflated, and reduce the weight of your vehicle as much as possible (don’t carry around excess weight).