Electric vehicles have become the poster child for environmentally-friendly transportation. They are known and loved for their zero-emissions production, and while it’s true that they produce zero tailpipe emissions, they are not entirely pollution-free.
EV tires produce an astounding 20% more tire pollution than your typical ICE-powered cars. Since electric vehicles are heavier and accelerate quicker than gas-powered cars, their tires shed more rubber and other toxic materials when on the road. All this rubber particulate that rubs off expels into the air, and the effects are still being studied.
The Harm Caused by Tire Pollution
Since tire pollution is so new, scientists have yet to pinpoint exactly how harmful it is. Still, research suggests that tires are the second-leading source of microplastics in the ocean, which should come as no surprise when you consider how many vehicles are on the road in 2023.
In addition to harming the ocean, research by the National Library of Medicine reported that 6PPD-quinone is a byproduct of tire emissions, killing loads of coho salmon in Washington State.
They stated, “Urban stormwater runoff frequently contains the car tire transformation product 6PPD-quinone, which is highly toxic to juvenile and adult coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch).”
Then they went on to say, “Adult and juvenile coho salmon exposed to stormwater containing 6PPD-quinone undergo a common progression of behavioral symptoms termed urban runoff mortality syndrome (URMS) that begins with increased surface swimming, followed by loss of equilibrium and buoyancy, and eventual death.”
All that to say, if it’s killing coho salmon, we can guess that it’s probably not healthy for anything else, either.
How We Can Reduce Tire Pollution
So what do we do about this?
A few U.S. agencies are already working to add harmful tires that contain 6PPd to their list of hazardous products so that tire manufacturers will have to find safe alternatives.
A company in London has also launched a new device that can be installed next to tires that collect rubber particulate in a small box as it wears off. So far, they have only been able to collect 20% of the rubber that wears off, and they are working to perfect their design. But even just 20% would significantly impact tire pollution on the roads.