Is Singapore ready for the next step towards greener transport?

In Singapore, private cars contribute 35 per cent of emissions, making it the largest contributor among all transport modes in the city-state. With a growing middle-class and greater spending power, the number of cars on Singapore’s roads is on the rise.

It is not only essential for the country to adopt a sustainable urban lifestyle, but to also provide solutions for cutting down carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and noise pollution. These are the imminent problems that come with rapid urbanization, hence, sustainable mobility becomes more eminent.

Singapore is poised to take the next major step towards smarter, greener transportation with its green initiatives, which include the establishment of the National Climate Change Secretariat (NCCS) in 2010 to tackle climate change. Under the auspices of NCCS, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) of Singapore has been putting in place measures to control the number of vehicles on the roads to ease traffic congestion.

For instance, the LTA’s Carbon Emissions-based Vehicle Scheme (CEVS), which offers tax rebates for consumers buying new cars that emit lower carbon emissions, influences consumer behavior by encouraging drivers to choose more fuel-efficient cars. This regulation offers a simple proposition – the more emissions a car produces, the higher the tax will be. This also sends a clear message to the vehicle and tire manufacturing industries - that their long-term success in this market can be secured through fuel-efficient product solutions.

Green is good

Among the environmentally-friendly technological breakthroughs in the automobile industry, ‘greener’ substitutes for conventional tires are found to be the most applicable yet the least acknowledged by both consumers and the industry itself.

Currently, there are many initiatives worldwide that are geared towards reducing CO2 emissions and promoting sustainable mobility. One of the immediately achievable solutions, which allows for consumers to make direct contributions to the environment, is their choice of tires for their cars.

According to a research done by Germany’s Technical University of Munich, tires on passenger vehicles have significant impact on fuel consumption and the environment.  Tires account for every fourth filling of petrol in cars and every third filling in commercial trucks, and fuel consumption is impacted by the rolling resistance of one’s tires used.

Energy loss in tires is caused by the heating and deformation of tires, as they work hard to brake and grip the road. It is estimated that 20-30 per cent of fuel consumption and rolling resistance is produced by tires, and about approximately 24 per cent of a vehicle’s CO2 emissions is related to tires.

Specially engineered “green tires”, which are tires with an excellent performance profile in terms of rolling resistance, road grip, mileage and noise emissions, can offer consumers increased durability, enhanced safety while improving fuel efficiency at the same time.

“Green tires” for example can reduce rolling resistance by approximately 30 per cent, and this could lead to reduced fuel consumption of about 0.5 l per 100 km or alternatively 5 to 7 per cent, to bring about reduced CO2 emissions or about 1.2 kg per 100 km. Just by choosing ‘green tires’, passenger car drivers could possibly lower their fuel consumption by some 7 to 8 per cent, and trucks by about 10 to 11 per cent. These tires can also deliver a shorter braking distance at 80 km/h by up to 21 meters.

In Frost & Sullivan’s 2011 study that examined the green habits of Singaporean drivers, it was noted that “green tires” will see a national saving of 352,600 tons of CO2 (5 per cent carbon reduction). Significantly, this also means that the conversion to “green tires” will save 144 million liters of fuel annually for the nation.

Consumer consciousness elsewhere in the world

With the aim of helping consumers make informed choices during tire purchase, the European Union (EU) introduced the tire labeling legislative scheme in November 2012. Tire labeling provides a classification for tires that is measured against three key performance parameters: fuel efficiency (related to rolling resistance), impact on safety (associated with wet grip), and external noise level.

These key areas are the most influential factors in the consumers’ purchasing decision and are all presented on the tire label. More importantly, these components can also show consumers the economic and ecological benefits of their purchase. With the concept of tire labeling, the power is now in the consumer’s hands to make informed purchasing decisions.

With the success of the European Union’s tire labeling legislation, many countries have already followed suit in hopes of shrinking domestic fuel consumption, cutting down CO2 emissions and raising the standards for tire safety.

In the Asia-Pacific region, South Korea legislated tire labeling as of December 2012, with plans to reduce their CO2 emission by 30 percent by 2020. Japan’s tire manufacturing industry started a tire labeling initiative on a voluntary basis since 2010.

China, the biggest automotive consumer in Asia, has vocalized its aim to reduce its CO2 emissions by 40-45 per cent mid-decade via tire labeling in the near term. It has been estimated that by 2015, around 25 per cent of all tires manufactured in China will be fuel-efficient and low carbon-emitting “green tires”. India has also publicly announced that it seeks to reduce the country’s CO2 emissions by 20-25 per cent by 2020.

To drive sustainable success for green transport initiatives, there is much to be done to educate consumers on “green” options or alternatives available to them. As tires are one of the most frequently-replaced auto-parts in a car’s driving cycle, Frost & Sullivan also found in their study that 95 percent of surveyed respondents indicated that they would consult guidelines in the form of information labels when purchasing tires, should they be available.

This shows promise that Singapore’s drivers are ready to take the next step towards green transport initiatives like tire labelling – consumers would be able to shop for tires in the same way they choose refrigerators and air-conditioners based on existing labelling schemes.

Without question, the future of global mobility will be driven by sustainable solutions. And with the adoption of meaningful and sustainable environmental initiatives by both government and industry, Singapore can be a “greener” garden city than it is already known for.

Christoph Kalla is the global head of marketing, performance butadiene rubbers business unit, at Lanxess. 

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