If you’re any kind of vehicle enthusiast, the subject of emissions is probably not far from your mind. What’s the first thing you think of when you hear that word, though? If it’s exhaust emissions, you’re not alone. However, in May, 2022, British independent research firm Emissions Analytics published a new study that claims tire emissions pollute at a rate that’s 1,850 times worse than exhausts. 

Now, we should note here that this survey was conducted using cars and other light-duty four-wheeled passenger vehicles, not motorcycles. However, the same basic principles still matter for riders, even if the exact details differ. For example, there are, as you’d expect, several factors in play when considering the pollution generated by tires. How aggressively you drive (or ride) plays a role, as does how new your tires are (newer tires shed more particulates). Vehicle weight is also a significant issue, which is concerning to battery-electric vehicle drivers in 2022, due in large part to the fact that they’re not particularly light on the scale. 

On top of everything else, tire composition is also a huge factor. Every tire manufacturer has proprietary formulas for its various tire compounds, and this can affect what kind and how much particulate is released during all types of tire use.  

Even taking all that into consideration, though, simply saying something is 1,850 times worse than something else certainly doesn’t look encouraging. “Quoting such ratios, however, needs careful interpretation,” Emissions Analytics cautions.  

“The fundamental trends that drive this ratio are: tailpipe particulate emissions are much lower on new cars, and tire wear emissions increase with vehicle mass and aggressiveness of driving style.  Tailpipe emissions are falling over time, as exhaust filters become more efficient and with the prospect of extending the measurement of particulates under the potential future Euro 7 regulation, while tire wear emissions are rising as vehicles become heavier and added power and torque is placed at the driver’s disposal.  On current trends, the ratio may well continue to increase,” the firm continues. 

EA goes into detail about how it came to its conclusions, including the what, how, where, when, and why of its methodology. For example, it scored 14 different tire brands as driven on the same Mercedes C-class vehicle, tested from new. Furthermore, the firm says, it tested an additional small number of tires throughout its lifespan to gather even more data.  

While this first test involved cars and car tires, what kinds of conclusions could be drawn from using the same testing methods on motorcycle tires? Motorcycles are much lighter weight than modern cars—even the very heavy ones. Rolling on a pair of tires rather than four at once also seems like it would make a difference. Still, if you’re concerned about what kinds of things we’re putting out into the environment on a regular basis, it’s something to think about. 

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