Eco tyres: what are they and which are best?

We look at which tyres are best for fuel economy and durability. We also check in on how the tyre companies are improving their sustainability efforts.

Three stacked tyres

by Chris Williams |

The way cars are constructed, what they’re constructed from, and how they’re powered are all in the midst of an overhaul. A large part of a car’s impact is its tyres, and this isn't just a case of being inflated properly. Tyre companies are working to develop and offer products that last longer and reduce rolling resistance without compromising on grip.

This sounds like a tricky one to pull off but thanks to new tyre compounds, it is possible.

What makes a tyre eco?

Tyres being used as plant pots
©Photo: Getty Images

Modern tyres may use a compound that employs the help of silica. Doing so reduces a tyre’s weight and friction, thus lowering its rolling resistance. In turn, this helps improve a car’s fuel economy and decreases its emissions output.

Silica compounds also make a tyre stronger, which aids durability. Such a tyre can then have a tread pattern that introduces grip and stability into the mix.

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There is no specific threshold for eco tyres, but certain tyre models that have low rolling resistance or good wear will often get an eco label of some sort from their manufacturer.

Just like the rest of the manufacturing sector, sourcing and production processes are also important aspects. By and large, tyre manufacturers are working to improve themselves. Continental and Hankook for example have received awards for their sustainability and supply chain efforts. Continental is also making strides in recovering material from worn tyres through pyrolysis.

Is the tyre industry improving its sustainability?

In 2005 a collection of tyre companies began the Tire Industry Project (TIP), which researches and aims to improve the sustainability of tyres throughout the cycle, from sustainable rubber sourcing to road wear particles to end of life management.

Current members are Bridgestone, Continental, Goodyear, Hankook, Kumho Tire, Michelin, Pirelli, Sumitomo Rubber, Toyo Tires, and Yokohama Rubber.

In 2018, TIP and others launched the Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber (GPSNR). This platform is about making the rubber industry socially, environmentally, and economically sustainable. Members include, among others, much of the tyre industry (a noticeable exception being Falken), the World Wildlife Fund for Nature, Rainforest Alliance, and some carmakers.

The idea of the GPSNR is for members to publish and collectively improve their relevant policies. Tyre companies have made pledges to improve themselves, with some being more ambitious and specific than others, which we outline in the section below.

The best tyres for fuel efficiency and durability

Bridgestone Ecopia EP150

Bridgestone Ecopia EP150
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Fuel efficiency A-D | Wet grip A-C | Sizes available 14-17 inches

Bridgestone’s Ecopia tyres achieve low rolling resistance with a new compound while maintaining good grip in wet and dry conditions.

Bridgestone aims to increase the portion of renewable and recyclable materials used to 40% by 2030 and 100% by 2050.

Continental EcoContact 6

Continental EcoContact 6

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Fuel efficiency A-C | Wet grip A-B | Sizes available 13-22 inches

The EcoContact’s compound is called Green Chili 2.0. It’s a champion of low rolling resistance and also durability. The tread pattern offers grip and stability too, and the range of sizes available means there’s a fit for everyone.

Continental aims to achieve full carbon neutrality, a completely circular life of its products, and a 100% responsible supply chain by 2050. It has been awarded by the Carbon Disclosure Project on more than one occasion for its efforts towards improving its supply chain.

Dunlop Sport BluResponse

Dunlop Sport BluResponse
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Fuel efficiency A-C | Wet grip A-C | Sizes available 14-17 inches

This is a tyre that is talented. It delivers great levels of grip in wet and dry conditions, wears very well, and achieves low rolling resistance.

Goodyear (owner of Dunlop) aims to not use any petroleum-based oils by 2040 and established a zero waste to landfill expectation in 2006.

ENSO

Closeup of ENSO tyre
©ENSO

ENSO is developing tyres specifically for electric vehicles, which are heavier and have more torque than petrol or diesel vehicles. ENSO is also the first tyre company to be awarded B-Corp certification for its sustainability efforts.

ENSO is backed by a range of investors including the UK Government and is working with carmakers, Royal Mail, and DPD to test its EV-specific tyres.

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Goodyear EfficientGrip Performance 2

Goodyear EfficientGrip Performance 2

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Fuel efficiency A-C | Wet grip A-B | Sizes available 15-20 inches

Goodyear’s EfficientGrip Performance 2 tyres are for cars and SUVs. The tyre uses Goodyear’s Mileage Plus Technology, which makes the tread for elastic and flexible, aiding durability considerably. Impressively, this Goodyear tyre also manages low rolling resistance too.

Goodyear aims to not use any petroleum-based oils by 2040 and established a zero waste to landfill expectation in 2006.

Hankook Kinergy eco2

Hankook Kinergy eco2

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Fuel efficiency A-D | Wet grip A-C | Sizes available 13-17 inches

This tyre is specifically for smaller vehicles and achieves very low rolling resistance. Its compound is also meant to aid wear and has an asymmetrical tread pattern to improve handling. Even so, it doesn’t offer as much grip as other tyres here.

In March 2022 Hankook was awarded S&P Global Gold Class for its sustainability efforts. These winners of these awards are based on the S&P Dow Jones World Sustainability Index.

Michelin Energy Saver+

Michelin Energy Saver+

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Fuel efficiency A-C | Wet grip A-B | Sizes available 14-16 inches

The Energy Saver+ tyre is an impressive all-rounder, offering very good durability, low rolling resistance, and grip in wet and dry conditions.

By 2030, Michelin has committed to incorporating 40% sustainable materials, halving its industrial sites’ CO2 emissions. It has stated both will increase to 100% by 2050.

Pirelli Cinturato P7C2

Pirelli Cinturato P7C2

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Fuel efficiency A-C | Wet grip A-B | Sizes available 16-19 inches

The P7C2 focuses on grip, performance, and low rolling resistance. It achieves these in spades but it’s not as durable as other tyres here.

Pirelli aims for its manufacturing to be carbon neutral by 2030, with the use of fossil-based materials falling to under 30% by the same date, and use of renewable materials increasing to more than 60%.

The EU tyre label

2021 EU tyre labels
©European Commission

This label is your first point of call when looking at the performance of your next set of tyres. Updated in 2021, this label gives every single tyre on the European market a rating on fuel efficiency, wet braking, noise, and suitability for winter (snowflake symbol) or extreme cold (mountain symbol).

A certain tyre will vary in its results depending on size and speed rating, which is why it's important you find the exact size you need before comparing tyres against one another.

Read next:

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