Archive for May, 2008

Paws for thought

Recently I have noticed rather a lot of new vans in my suburb which advertise dog walking services. I know such enterprises have always been around – in fact when I first moved here I considered it as a possibility.

But it does seem to be a business that is experiencing boom times. As the vans that carry these pooches all look the same they must be an “ideal” pet carrying vehicle.

For dog lovers out there – some car manufacturers have already thought about how to make their vehicle more attractive. Honda has “Honda-Dog” – a Japanese language website which gives information about dog friendly cafes and hotels as well as the dimensions of their cars which are dog friendly.

A US based website, dogcars.com have been giving “paws” ratings on cars which are solely based on doggy concerns such as how well a car holds dogs and whether the seats fold flat.

Because I don’t like my tyres being “marked” by dogs walking down the street and because this is a tyre blog, it did get me thinking….. is there scope for a different kind of paw rating just for tyres? The higher the paw rating the more likely the dog wont do their business…..

May 29, 2008 at 5:42 am Leave a comment

Looking for Mr Right (Motor Engineers)

I came across a problem of using print directories at the weekend. Picture this. 830 pm on a Saturday night. Two very tired young kids in the car. The car stalled and doesn’t start. We are blocking two driveways. A few kindly knocks on a door and a request for some brawn to help push it somewhere safer and we are ok. Luckily we are not too far from home.

The next morning the search begins for someone to fix it. Scan the printed directory for our local area. Oh silly me, you don’t look under car service or car repair, but motor engineers and repairers. When was the last time you said “my car is in need of a motor engineer?” Perhaps in 1911.

Were there any service centres listed for our make of car – probably – but unless the manufacturers name was the first name of the business, I wouldn’t know unless I scanned the whole list looking for that key word. No thanks, I have better things to do with my time, like watching paint dry.

And whilst I am in the mood for a rant , and apologies to those who classify and index printed directories, why aren’t the headings intuitive?. Why are some things under “car”, and some things under “motor?” And why isn’t there a consistent cross reference so that you don’t have to go to the front of the directory and scrabble around for a magnifying glass – because the print appears to be designed for mice with 20/20 vision – to find the correct heading for what you are looking for?

So CarbonBlacks’ move to create the largest online automotive directory in Australia searchable by any word you wish to use seems like an absolutely fabulous idea – just wish it had happened last weekend rather than on 1 July this year.

May 27, 2008 at 12:35 am Leave a comment

Beating rising fuel costs with energy efficient tyres

Want to beat rising fuel costs? One possible way to do so is to buy more energy efficient tyres. The problem is that most consumers are not well informed about tyre fuel efficiency because there is no standardised labelling or rating scheme. Without knowing, they might choose replacement tyres that are less fuel efficient.

EU tyre manufacturers together with the European Commission are spearheading the move towards energy efficient labelling of tyres, and legislation is currently under discussion to empower consumers to make informed decisons in the replacement tyre market, which apparently represents 75% of market share. This is all part of a broader EU commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20% by 2020 and to improve fuel efficiency by 20% over the same period. Legislation has also been passed in the US but implementation has been slow.

Currently we are not aware of any plans for such a scheme here in Australia but growing public concern of global warming and the effects of rising fuel prices on hip pockets make it likely that, in the near future, tyre buyers will want to compare tyres – just like they do fridges and washing machines – by their energy rating.

May 22, 2008 at 4:24 am Leave a comment

David’s Top Ten Tyre Tips

  1. The more components built into a tyre, the more it will cost. They must be there for a reason, such as better stopping distance, cornering, and/or steering response. You may not be able to notice the small improvements, but it may save you from running wide on a curve over the double lines in the rain, or pranging the car in front.
  2. The higher the letter in the alphabet after the size brand, e.g. H,V,Z,W,Y,ZR, the more expensive it will be, and better at hanging together under extreme stress, such as high temperatures, speed or lo load.
  3. Larger tread blocks (or if they look the same size all over) mean noisier tyres. The more these blocks are cut up by surface (half depth) knife slots, the better it will be in the wet and the faster they will wear up until they are about half worn. After that, who knows?
  4. Wear vs. wet road holding. Claims that the tyre will outwear anything else means the more likely the wet road holding will be poor, because you can’t have both at optimum at the same time.
  5. The lower the tyre profile e.g. 55 down to 35 or lower, the faster the steering response will be, even to the stage that it just might be too twitchy for an average driver to cope with. Lower profiles also mean that more components should be built into the lower sidewall to stiffen the walls and improve the steering response. This excludes scuff ribs or spray deflectors on the outside of the walls – added to protect the sidewalls.
  6. The higher the air pressure, the lower the fuel consumption (generally less than 5% improvement), the harder the ride and the faster the steering response.
  7. The higher the number after the size brand e.g. 92 to 96 or similar, the more load the tyre can carry at higher pressures without cutting into its reserves of casing strength and durability.
  8. The wider the tread, the more the centre of the tread design has to be opened up with grooves to channel water from under the tyre, otherwise you can aquaplane. Overall, there might not be any more rubber there after all but it looks great, and gives the salespeson a “point of difference” on which to sell.
  9. The wider the tread, the more the salesperson will try to sell it to you, because you can both see that it’s wider. Besides, it’s the only part of the tyre that you can see in the tyre rack!
  10. The wider the tread, the more rubber is over the edges of the steel belts, putting more stress and heat there, which has to be compensated for in the design by adding more components to the tyre. So it’s back to 1!

May 20, 2008 at 12:37 am Leave a comment

Tyres and opium. Discuss.

Bet you are wondering how I am going to link these two topics….

Well, recently, a friend of ours came to visit – he had just spent 10 years working and living in the Peoples Demorcatic Republic of Lao.

PDR Lao, is a small, very poor country bordering China, Thailand Vietnam, Myanmar and Cambodia. I was telling him about CarbonBlack and he mentioned he had heard that there was a lot of Chinese investment in northern Lao in rubber plantations.

Well that got me Googling and sure enough it’s true. It is projected that China will outstrip the US, the worlds largest rubber consumer by 2020, largely because of its’ car industry – the number of private vehicles is estimated to increase from 22 million in 2006 to 140 million in 2020.

There are a few debates about whether what is happening in PDR Lao is good for the farmers but interestingly, rubber could be an economically viable alternative to the opium, the main cash crop which used to be grown in these areas.

May 16, 2008 at 3:47 am Leave a comment

The greening of waste tyre disposal

Did you know that it has been estimated that around 18 million waste tyres (measured in equivalent passenger units) are generated in Australia each year?. Whilst disposal or re-use of waste tyres varies greatly between States and Territories nationally, it is estimated that about 57% of waste tyres go to landfill and 13% are disposed of inappropriately through illegal dumping.

The US, EU and Japan, which recycle 80% of their end of life tyres. Compare this to Australia’s 20-25%. However, plans are afoot to change this.

The Environment Protection and Heritage Council together with tyre producers and recyclers through the Australian Tyre Industry Council have been looking at the disposal of tyres for a while – in particular developing a draft Tyre Product Stewardship Agreement . The draft Agreement, released this month, is open for public comment for two months.

Product Stewardship is the idea that companies need to share responsibility for reducing the impact of products on the environment over their total life cycle. For many companies this represents a big shift in the way that they think. It means doing more than simply ensuring that their manufacturing and distribution operations have minimal impacts on the environment. It also requires them to look at the impacts of their supply chain, and to work closely with suppliers to implement environmental improvement programs. It also requires them to design products which use materials and energy as efficiently as possible, avoid use of toxic or hazardous substances, and which are recoverable at end-of-life.

Most of the Australian tyre producers and recyclers have been supportive of this voluntary Product Stewardship scheme which has objectives to substantially reduce tyres going to landfill, reduce the health and environmental risks of inappropriate disposal and increase resource recovery for end- of-life tyres (90% in ten years). Understandably, their concern has been that by doing the “right thing” they may be at a competitive disadvantage with those that do not .

Enter a draft proposal to underpin an Agreement with a regulatory “safety-net”- the National Environmental Protection (Tyres) Measure – whereby government regulates those who are unwilling to participate in the voluntary industry self regulated scheme. This would ensure that all businesses dealing in the targeted products achieve at least the same environmental outcomes. This two prong approach of voluntary industry agreement underpinned with government regulation is known as co-regulation.

Also out this month, is an impact statement issued by the Environment Protection and Heritage Council on such a regulatory measure . The impact statement is also open for public consultation for two months.

If you want a say in this process, now is the time.

May 13, 2008 at 9:00 am 1 comment

How many women buy tyres?

Here at carbonblack.com.au we have decided to introduce some female content into the largely, male dominated world of tyres and tyre blogs. Its partly in keeping with having a female CEO and some female employees – of which I am one. And it’s not about losing that extra spare tyre after the winter – although that would be an added bonus – its about statistics.

Based on 2006 census data (www.censusdata.abs.gov.au), the Australian Bureau of Statistics estimated that there were around 15 million people living in Australia over the age of 18, of which just over half were women. In their 2004 Survey of Motor Use they estimated that there were around 11 million passenger vehicles in the country (www.abs.gov.au).

Who knows whether half the cars on the road are owned by women, but I’m an economist good at making assumptions. So lets assume that women buy tyres for a conservative third of all passenger cars in Australia . That means around 3 million cars which means at least 12 million tyres .. And if we assume that 50% of them are are anything like me, spending most of their time juggling work and home, a lot of them will want to find tyre dealers quickly and easily. OK so some won’t be internet savvy – especially the 2,355 women over the age of 100 – although you never know.

As economists aren’t well known for their accurate assumptions (why has astrology been invented? So that economics would look like an accurate science) …. I wonder whether mine are far that off the mark?

May 8, 2008 at 4:56 am Leave a comment