Dr. Kai Zastrow on Tire Legislation & Regulation
Automotive IQ spoke with Dr. Kai Zastrow, Head of Safety Regulations and Type Approval at PSA to get his expert insight on tyre regulations, opportunities for market growth, tyres for EVs, and the Chinese market. Dr. Zastrow will be introducing a discussion about the first experiences with the new tyre label at the 9th Intelligent Tires Technology Conference taking place in Dýsseldorf, Germany.
"One reason why I’ve participated in the ITT is because I know a lot of people from the tyre industry, from the vehicle manufacturers, and from the component suppliers. We have worked together for eight years. I see these colleagues like a big family."
What is your background and role at Peugeot Citroìn?
Kai Frederik Zastrow: I have an engineering background. I studied electrical/electronic engineering and did my doctoral thesis in Berlin. Then I had a six-year experience in Germany in transport technology. In 2001, I started with PSA Peugeot Citroìnin the cost department in France. In 2005, I changed to the department for regulations, standards and type approval where I became responsible for active safety regulations. That is anything to do with braking, steering, tyres. Since 2012, I am the head of the unit Safety Regulations and Type Approval within PSA, which includes all active and passive safety regulations and type approvals.
In 2005, I became a member of the GRRF in Geneva. This is the Working Party on Brakes and Running Gear of the World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations (WP.29) of the UNECE United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.At the Geneva UNECE, there are six Working Parties for different technical domains and active safety, including tyres, is handled by GRRF.
GRRF meetings are attended on one side by the representatives of the United Nations Member States, which are contracting parties of the Geneva Agreements, e.g. United States, Japan, China, the European Countries etc. On the other side, NGOs Non-Governmental Organizations, which are accredited by the United Nations Economic and Social Council, may also attend the meetings but they cannot vote. Personally, I attended those meetings in the delegation of the Organization of International Vehicle Manufacturers (OICA). I had been the head of this delegation during five years.
And were you travelling quite often back and forth?
K.F.Z.: Yes. The official meetings take place in Geneva in the "Palais des Nations" but there are a lot of informal group meetings in different capitals with important political stakeholders, e.g. Brussels. Officially, my office has always been in Paris, which is in the middle of Brussels and Geneva and where is also the head office of OICA.
Prior to each official meeting in Geneva, there is a preparatory meeting of the vehicle manufacturers in Paris. Each NGO can prepare its proposals and send them to Geneva but finally the new regulations and amendments to existing regulations are voted by the UNECE Member States.
This is the case for all UNECE Regulations on Tyres as for example ECE 30, ECE 54, ECE 64, ECE 75, ECE 106, ECE 108, ECE 109 and ECE 117 and also the new draft GTR - the global technical regulation on tyres.
You always want to strike a balance by having good, safe regulations without stifling innovation?
K.F.Z.: It is not so easy to introduce harmonized regulations among China, the United States, Europe, Japan and all other countries with their own specific tyre markets. You bring together the tyre manufacturers, the vehicle manufacturers and the governments and then you discuss reasonable types of tests, limit values and test conditions.
And it’s interesting because they’re currently discussing a free trade agreement between the EU and the US so this could be all the more important at least with those two actors.
K.F.Z.: Concerning tyres it is really the global technical regulation, the GTR that is currently developed in Geneva, that should be the aim for the US and Europe and all other markets because the tyre market is a world market and in consequence in order to have a good competition it is reasonable to have one worldwide-harmonized standard.
What are, in your opinion, the main challenges that the tyre industry is facing currently and then perhaps looking ahead five years or so?
K.F.Z.: I believe the main problem today is the discrepancy between the different markets. On the one hand, you have the world market, which is increasing dramatically, and worldwide vehicle production is still increasing. There are a lot of new regions and emergent countries, which have a high demand for tyres and a high cost pressure as well. On the other hand, you have, for instance, a European market which is even falling, but in this falling market there are very high requirements, tyre performance required concerning wet-grip, dry-grip, tyre-rolling resistance, tyre-rolling noise, endurance, and it is very difficult for the tyre manufacturers to have a good compromise for all these requirements. So, on the one hand, you have an increasing market worldwide which requires you to have relatively cheap tyres in order to enter new markets in emerging countries and, on the other hand, you have markets requiring very sophisticated and complex products.
The high-cost regions are unfortunately not where the growth markets are at the moment.
K.F.Z.: And the question for the next five years is whether these two tendencies will still create more divergences or whether with worldwide harmonization we will bring the requirements together and the tyre market worldwide will become more homogeneous.
So you could see this being a real possibility in five to ten years?
K.F.Z.: At least five to ten years because in the short term nothing will change. It really takes a lot of effort and time until all markets apply the same requirements. Generally, each country introduces its own requirements when they feel the need. For instance, Europe and the United States have each introduced their own tyre labelling requirements. Korea has also introduced its own tyre labelling requirements since January this year and I think that China will follow as well with its own requirements. Today, there is no written project in China, but they are currently defining such tight requirements for fuel consumption, that there will be a strong need to introduce low rolling resistance tyres. Currently, there is no real ultra-low rolling resistance tyre on the Chinese market.
So this is a good opportunity for innovation and also a potentially good new business area?
K.F.Z.: I think so. It’s the same in Europe with rolling noise. In the past, there was no hard requirement on rolling noise and now with the mandatory introduction of ECE 117 the European tyre market has to follow. This is also because the vehicle noise requirements are much higher than 10 years ago and in order to make a vehicle quieter, the tyres are an important factor.
Do EVs present any particular challenge? EVs are generally quite silent so…
K.F.Z.:This is a very good question because, in theory, there are many reasons why tyres for Electric Vehicles should be different. One is the noise, as you say, for rolling noise there’s even a positive characteristic for EV as it increases safety. Therefore, for electric vehicles you could say it is even good to have tyres that produce noise in order to alert pedestrians. Another point is concerning the rolling resistance because the rolling resistance of the tyre is much more important for an electric vehicle than for a vehicle with an internal combustion engine.
In terms of battery range?
K.F.Z.: If you analyse the fuel consumption of a classic combustion engine, there’s around 20% due to tyre resistance because the combustion engine is not very efficient and takes already a big part. An electric motor has very little thermal loss that means the tyre rolling resistance has a much higher impact on the overall energy consumption. In addition, electric vehicles are mostly driven in urban traffic that means the aerodynamic resistance is less important. I have no accurate figures but I guess that the energy consumption due to tyre rolling resistance could be around 50% for a vehicle with an electric motor.
So there isn’t as much of an exothermic loss on the engine?
K.F.Z.: Exactly. A combustion engine is relatively hot so you just heat up the atmosphere. An electric motor does not become as hot. That means that the tyre rolling resistance is much more important for the overall energy consumption. In addition, the autonomy is a very important criterion for electric vehicles. If you mount tyres with very low rolling resistance, you can significantly increase the vehicle autonomy.
Absolutely, do you have any rough percentages in terms of gains that are possible now or that you think would be possible in a few years?
K.F.Z.: I have no precise values but if you could divide the tyre rolling resistance by two you should roughly gain 25% of autonomy.
That’s actually outstanding.
K.F.Z.: And this is quite interesting for the customer, I believe, because this gain is obtained without changing the vehicle. It’s only the tyre which changes. I believe that for electric vehicles, the tyre is even more important than for combustion engine vehicles, however, one parameter that is very different as well is the speed. Normally, electric vehicles have a maximum speed of about 130 km/h, and they are mainly used in urban traffic. That means a high-speed tyre makes no sense for most electric vehicles. You could mount tyres designed for a maximum speed of 150-160 km/h. The characteristics of a tyre for electric vehicles should, in theory, be very different from other tyres. However, in practice, in the real world, the electric vehicle market is still very small so it is still a niche market also for tyre manufacturers. The question is whether it is a good business model to design tyres especially for electric vehicles.
They need to prove the business case first.
K.F.Z.: Yes, I think in ten years when the market penetration of electric vehicles may be more important than today there could be some specific tyres, which are developed with a very low rolling resistance and maybe a higher rolling noise. However, today, this is theoretical.
I know the EU recently introduced a new labelling requirement. Have any of these new requirements affected the OEM from your perspective?
K.F.Z.: Yes, of course, the OEMs are also after-market tyre dealers. They sell tyres and, in particular, original equipment tyres for those customers who want to keep the same performance as the new vehicle.
When selling a tyre separately from a vehicle, the OEM transmits the tyre labelling information to the customer. However, currently, it seems that the customer is not very interested in this labelling information.
I believe it is too new. The labelling requirements have been introduced it in October 2012 and it is too recent to say whether it is a success or not. I think we have to wait a little bit. Personally, I think that tyre labelling is a very good thing because the after-market was not very clear for the customer. The only thing you knew was the price, the brand and the model name. But even though a tyre model is called "sport" or "energy" it was difficult to compare the performance.
I hope tyre labelling will help to make the tyre market more transparent but today it is too early to say whether it is a success or not. The customer needs time to understand. It’s like washing machines or lamps, they have also introduced labelling requirements for their energy consumption and it takes a little time before the customer starts comparing and saying, my washing machine is B, yours is C …
If you go shopping for tyres on the Internet, you can see all the mandatory labels. So maybe we will see that the customer will change his/her habits and maybe there will be customers who are more sensitive to grip and say, I am not worried about consumption I just want a good dynamic behaviour and braking distance; others may only be interested in rolling resistance because they want the minimum fuel consumption.
So in terms of the aim of regulatory standards, they are meant to improve safety and also to benefit the environment, but where do you see the limits in respect to new innovative developments in tyres? Where does innovation end at the moment?
K.F.Z.: First of all, I would like to make clear that regulations are not a problem for the development of new innovative technologies but are actually an opportunity because they force the tyre manufacturers to develop new technical solutions in order to comply with the new requirements. They are a driver for innovations and an incentive for manufacturers for new technologies, new materials.
Contrary requirements are a challenge. You might have a tyre that has a better grip but it makes more noise. The same may be true for the rolling resistance. If the tyre has a high grip performance that means really sticking to the ground, it has a higher rolling resistance. The challenge is to find a good compromise, to find a tyre that has good grip and also low rolling noise and rolling resistance. This is forced by regulation and this is not obvious today. Today, there’s no tyre on the market, which has the best class in wet grip and the best class in fuel consumption according to the new European labelling requirements. Maybe today this is not possible from a technology point of view. But I believe that in the future this could be one aim: to find new materials which are able to get high-rankings in different criteria which are even contrary.
And maybe once the consumer has had a chance to digest the labelling and understand it a little bit better, they themselves will also be part of that push?
K.F.Z.: Yes. But the limits of the regulations should still stay realistic. They should be challenging but not unrealistic and not lead to market distortion. We could imagine if the regulation goes too fast and its requirements are too high in the near future, that many competitors would be excluded from the tyre market. This would dramatically increase the price of tyres in the short term and I do not think this should be the aim. We need regulations that become more and more strict but the level should increase smoothly, progressively, so that the main competitors can still follow.
How would you go about harmonizing the various regulations that exist worldwide?
K.F.Z.: I have worked in the field of international tyre regulations for seven years now and we should be realistic: It is not possible to reach harmonization quickly. This is something, which takes a lot of time. A good example is that the work on a GTR global technical regulation on tyres has started in 2004. From 2004, experts from the governments, from the tyre manufacturers, from the vehicle manufacturers and other stakeholders worked together and they have still not yet adopted the text. Hopefully, it will be adopted in 2014 but you see it takes ten years to bring all the countries together and there are a lot of reasons for this. The most important reason is that every country has already introduced its own national regulations. They already include tests and mainly for legal reasons, they cannot give up those tests. A good example is that some countries still require a plunger energy strength test (a test where you press a metallic cylinder on the tyre) and a static bead unseating test. From an accident point of view, with modern radial tyres there is no need for those tests. They will not improve safety but they have been in the regulations for a very long time so that for legal reasons they cannot be deleted. From a scientific point of view, they are not necessary but they have been introduced in the GTR.
In other parts of the car industry you also have some of this inertia so it sounds very similar in that sense.
K.F.Z.: Yes. All countries already have their own national regulations and to get to global harmonization, you have to find compromises. One difficulty is that the infrastructure is different in the different regions of the world. A tyre which is rolling in a big town in China or on the countryside in the US or in Europe does not have the same user profile. That means, the tyres may need some different specific characteristics to satisfy their users. This is also a problem for worldwide harmonization.
Have you adopted a ‘middle-of-the-road’ idea on that or do you make the regulations so that they take into account regional variations?
K.F.Z.:The regulation only fixes limit values. For instance, it requires a high speed test with a certain tyre charge and tyre speed and the test is passed if the tyre resists. So the result is just binary, whether yes or no. That means you have a limit value and the real tyre should always be better. The regulation fixes the minimum for the safety and environmental performance and then the tyre manufacturer can add performance requirements for its own technical specification depending on the customer needs, on the market.
So you still might not sell certain tyres in a certain market because they just wouldn’t be appropriate. There is some minimum safety standard that would be in effect?
K.F.Z.: Yes. The GTR which should be adopted in 2014 is a big chance to have one worldwide minimum standard which should be transposed in national regulations. It is a stony way and it takes time, but I think it is the only way. I hope that all governments follow and adapt their national regulations accordingly.
I’ll do my best to follow this because I agree it sounds like a big challenge but it could definitely make a huge difference for the manufacturers around the world. In terms of future markets, you mentioned China a moment ago. What do you see as most important issues to overcome, to deal with, from a tyre perspective, to gain better access to this huge market?
K.F.Z.: Today, from a regulatory point of view, China has not yet harmonized with the other countries of the world. They take part in the GTR, so maybe in the future there will be some harmonization but today they still have different requirements.
But from a consumer point of view, today’s Chinese consumers are looking mainly for comfort, that means rolling comfort and low tyre wear which is also a cost factor. What will change in the future in China is the tyre rolling resistance because fuel consumption is becoming increasingly important for the Chinese market. I suppose that at least the major tyre manufacturers already have the technology available because they apply it in other countries. I think this is the main point that will change in China.
Dr. Zastrow, I genuinely appreciate that you took the time to speak with me.
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