MONTREAL — Planned obsolescence, as it applies to tires, was the subject of a lively master class at Movin'On, Michelin's sustainable mobility conference in Montreal, June 13-15.
At issue in the debate was the practice in Europe, encouraged by some stakeholders, to remove tires at a tread depth of 3 mm (0.11 inch) instead of the European Union statutory depth of 1.6 millimeters (0.062 inch).
According to a study by EY (Ernst & Young) France that was distributed at Movin'On, removal at a 3-mm tread depth is detrimental to sustainable mobility and a circular economy.
"Within the European Union, half of the tires are replaced at 3 mm," the EY study said. Yet accident data does not conclusively support a regulatory change to 3 mm from 1.6 mm, it said.
"This practice could even prove to be counterproductive in terms of accidentology," the study said.
"The prospect of a more frequent tire removal is likely to encourage motorists who have opted for high-quality, long-term performance tires to choose lower-priced tires of lower quality," it said.
"Yet tires of lesser quality at 3 mm might have a longer braking distance than high-quality tires at 1.6 mm."
The general practice of removing tires at 3 mm could impose annual global costs of 636 million euros (about $720 million), the study said. These would include $327 million for overconsumption of raw materials, $202 million for additional greenhouse gas emissions, $186 million for additional waste generation and $4.5 million for energy overconsumption, it said.
"Fighting against the planned obsolescence of tires is part of the ongoing transition of the mobility sector toward a circular and 'product as a service' economy," the study said.
To fight planned obsolescence, the tire industry should stop testing tires for wet traction at the beginning of their lives and test them instead at 1.6 mm, to guarantee their performance over time, the study said.
Planned obsolescence of tires creates unconscionable waste, said Brice Lalonde, president of the Business & Climate Summit and former minister of the environment for France.