September 19, 2023

Earthshot Nominations announced at “Summit” sponsored by Bloomberg

Two British companies have been named among 15 nominees for the 2023 Earthshot “Green Oscars.” Just five of the finalists will get £1m each for their solutions to  some of the earth’s most intractable environmental problems.

The stand-out nominee is Enso is a car tire manufacturer with a revolutionary product. There are 1.5 Billion vehicles on the planet  – all running on tires which give out thousands of tiny particles, so small they are lodged in the lungs of humans and animals.

While major producers, including Goodyear (GT.O), Bridgestone (5108.T), Michelin (MICP.PA) and Continental (CONG.DE), are trying to fend off competition from cheaper Chinese rivals, Enso has pioneered a tyre which is not made from fossil products, and  has none of the  toxicity of normal tyres, which on average contain about 200 components and chemicals, often derived from crude oil.

This year, California is expected to be the first authority to demand tyre-makers demonstrate they are seeking an alternative to 6PPD – a degraded form of which is lethal to some fish and has been found in human urine in South China.

The European Union’s upcoming Euro 7 emission regulations will set standards for tyres for the first time.  “It’s not quite a perfect storm,” said Gunnlaugur “G” Erlendsson, CEO of UK-based startup Enso, which has developed more durable tyres specifically for heavy EVs, which Michelin and Goodyear have reported can wear out tyres up to 50% faster.

“The unintended consequence of electric cars is we’ll have more tyre pollution unless we have better tyres,” said Enso’s Erlendsson, whose tyres, in testing emit 35% less than premium EV tyres from major manufacturers. But that still makes them reponsible for hundreds of deaths per week worldwide.

Bridgestone and Goodyear declined to discuss the industry’s emissions challenges.

But Michelin, Continental and Pirelli (PIRC.MI) told Reuters they are pursuing alternatives to 6PPD, with Michelin and Continental adding collective industry action may be necessary to find solutions.

Asked about Euro 7 regulations, Michelin said it wants worldwide standards to squeeze the higher emitting tyres, which are usually cheaper, out of the market. Continental advocates a global abrasion standard with transparent labelling for consumers.

Nick Molden, CEO of British-based testing specialist Emissions Analytics, said the “dirty end” of the list of tyres the company has tested are “cheap Chinese imports” common in the European market.

The Chinese makers of Rockblade, Mazzini and Ovation – among the worst-performing tyre brands on Molden’s list – did not respond to requests for comment.

Data provided to Reuters by Emissions Analytics shows new tyres from the large makers developed so far are unlikely to solve the problem.

For example, while tests carried out on Continental bicycle tyres made using dandelions show a 24.5% drop in carcinogenic aromatics – which help cars hug the road – the chemicals in the particles they emit are similarly toxic overall, …

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