All over the world, people are talking about “climate change.” In Europe, this is hardly surprising, as over the last couple of years there has been some pretty erratic weather here.
Is the planet warming due to changes in the way we live, or is climate change a natural phenomenon? And what does this have to do with tires? Quite a lot, since the uncertainty of weather conditions throughout the year has facilitated the emergence of all-season tires as a popular alternative to summer and winter tire patterns in all European countries.
Everyone from tire dealers to safety-conscious drivers are asking, “Should we be fitting tires with all-season tire patterns for 12 months, instead of switching from summer to winter tires?” I have noticed that there has been a sharp increase in tire dealers looking to stock all-season brands, and tire manufacturers are constantly working on updated versions of their all-season tires.
At the same time, the ordinary European motorist is getting tired of being “caught out” with the wrong seasonal tires at various times of the year. The desire for increased safety in unexpected wet and snowy conditions — even out of season, due to climate change — is probably the major reason why an increasing number of European drivers are moving away from using conventional summer tires on their vehicles. And I have noticed that the majority of manufacturers are producing a range of all-season tread patterns that closely resemble winter tires.
However, I have been reliably informed that there have been a number of tricky issues to overcome, including the need to combine impressive grip levels in snow with high driving performance on wet roads and, crucially in hot weather, performance on exceptionally dry roads.
Up to now, European drivers have been used to traveling on tires that sport traditional summer and winter patterns, which are each optimized to perform at completely different temperatures, with each tire type featuring its own, special compound that is specifically engineered to cope with a particular temperature.All-season tires use unique compounds that incorporate some of the qualities found in both summer and winter tires, meaning all-season tires will perform better than summer tires in cold weather conditions, and winter tires in hot weather conditions. However, it has to be stressed they are not an exact, “like-for- like” replacement for each other. In other words, all-season tires cannot offer the same highest level of performance that tires with special summer and winter tread patterns provide.
It also is worth noting that various countries in Europe experience different levels of weather throughout the year. Looking at all of the statistics on European weather patterns, it can be concluded that all-season tires are particularly suited to countries with summers that are not particularly hot and winters that are not too cold, and do not experience any long periods of extreme weather. From a domestic point of view, all-season tires also are suited to end users who drive mainly in urban areas and only travel a limited number of miles each year.
At the same time, all-season tires are not just for traditional car drivers, as they also are an option for van owners and light commercial fleet managers. In fact, there are currently dedicated all-season tires for vans and light commercial vehicles that are already gaining a reputation for all-around braking and safety performance, plus higher mileage and reduced fuel consumption.
It is still early days for all-season tires to capture an equal share of the European tire market compared to summer and winter tires. However, if the current trend continues, I am convinced more European vehicles will be fitted with one type of tire to cope with all weather seasons. ■