Deadly Tyre and Brake Pollution: The Downside of The Green EV Dream

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Will new emissions taxes appear on EV or battery powered cars in the future? Most likely they will, as evidence mounts of excessive brake pad and tyre wear emerges. Rapid tyre wear can mean rubber particle loss on busy urban roads, where pedestrians and cyclists then breathe the particles in – not good, worse some might say than occasional exposure to tail pipe fumes.

If you are interested there is detailed research on the composition of traffic “dust” plus long term health implications in this academic study, which drivers are sometimes breathing in, as well as pedestrians especially in hot countries. Like driving an electric iPace (2,208Kgs or 4,687lbs) however, reading the study is heavy going so pace yourself…

More scientific research on brake pad and tyre particle dangers needs to be done of course. Although that does undermine the “green” credentials of the switch to battery cars. EVs use regen braking, so the brakes should last longer since the pads aren’t under the same loads at the same given speed, although they are stopping a car that’s twice as heavy as a petrol hatchback.

Then there’s oil usage in the tyres to think about. Although some EV SUVs are almost as heavy as a supermarket home delivery truck, they often use tyres with a higher oil based compound. Most HGV lorry tyres are mainly made from rubber, but car/SUV tyres are about 80% crude oil based, so you can’t phase out oil production using electric cars. The oil is also used to make the plastic light lenses, dashboards and the synthetic fibres in the seats. In switching to EV fleets insurers cannot say they leaving a carbon based mode of transport, the vehicle is packed with oil based products and still requires oil based lubrication within suspension, power steering components and even the aircon gas pump.


Some EV SUV vehicles now weigh about three tonnes, the same as a light commerial box van. Like any 3-tonner vehicle, EVs hammer the roads, causing more pothole damage, wear grooves in tarmac surfacing and spin off lots of deadly carbon particles. This extra road wear and tear could be funded – partially – by a new tax on EVs above say 2 tonnes. The RAC reported on UK govt plans to impose a tyre tax on EVs back in March, but it’s unlikely to happen before the next General Election, as voters don’t like hearing about new taxes just before they vote.

For insurers hoping to tick the ESG box by switching their company vehicle – and supplier vehicle – fleets to pure battery pack cars, the introduction of a tyre tax not only highlights the downside of using them, but will cost fleet managers more money. EVs are currently VED zero rated, but this tyre pollution could be a good wheeze for all governments to impose a pollution tax on EVs. Then there are extra EV recovery and storage costs when accidents happen.


Tyre makers are aware of the heavy EV problem and working on more durable tyres, which still offer good grip on wet, pothole-infested roads.

For example Firestone has a new Roadhawk 2 ENLITEN, the successor to its summer touring tyre, Roadhawk. The company says it offers best-in-class wet grip, enhanced mileage and improved fuel/energy consumption compared to its previous generation. The latest Firestone addition is also EV-ready. Firestone says it offers an innovative mixing technology and the integration of NanoPro-Tech, a high silica content compound that provides robust abrasion resistance and longer mileage.

For EV owners/leaseholders the sweetener is a 12 percent rolling resistance reduction to optimise vehicle fuel/energy consumption, says Firestone. In theory, that should increase battery range, plus reduce tyre wear.

The other thing insurers need to be aware of here is driver behaviour.

EVs are known for their sudden acceleration, which again causes tyre wear. An ATS spokesperson told Fleet News back in May 2023 that some newbie EV drivers tend to put the pedal to the metal when they first try an EV, as that is what’s needed on a diesel or petrol car, when pulling away from traffic lights or busy junctions. For mainstream car insurance brands, the issue of rapid tyre wear on heavy EVs, coupled with poor driving habits, could lead to more loss of control incidents on wet roads, particularly in winter when grip is lower due to both the road temperature and tyre temperature.

On the upside modern cars have features like traction control, Sport or Winter suspension/handling Modes etc as ADAS systems, built into the vehicle dashboard menu. Insurers and brokers need to watch out for the drivers who switch those features off, for a more exciting journey.

The switch to EV cars has potential benefits in reducing overall consumption of oil, diesel and petrol of course. But it cannot eradicate the need for oil production, refining and manufacture of tyres, interior trim, lights, switches, laptops, tyres and many other parts on cars, motorcycles and scooters. Insurers need to remind the activists busy painting windows outside Lloyd’s that Just Stopping Oil means turning the clock back to pre-industrial times. If Cressida wants to pop over to Saffron’s pad for a vegan BBQ using an EV, then oil makes that journey possible. Not unicorns.

About alastair walker 12533 Articles
20 years experience as a journalist and magazine editor. I'm your contact for press releases, events, news and commercial opportunities at Insurance-Edge.Net

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