The Retyre Project: Securing the Future of SME Retreading in Europe
If you are a European retreader you may well have already heard something about the Retyre project, perhaps from your national retreading association, through the pages of this magazine or even direct from BIPAVER, the European Federation of Retreading Associations, who have been looking to find ways of testing retreads for noise, wet grip and rolling resistance for several years, in order to protect the retreading industry against the negative effects of future legislation. However, you might not be fully aware of how critical this project might prove to be in securing the future of SME retreading in Europe.
At BIPAVER’s annual general meeting in Bologna, the Federation, in announcing that they had achieved initial approval for the 2.5 million Euro project and were now due to attend a final negotiation meeting to secure the necessary funding, left members in no doubt that the very existence of retreading within the EC was at stake, should the project not be successful.
That being the case, perhaps it is time for European retreaders to be made more fully aware of the project, its future scope and the implications for all retreaders across Europe.
EC Regulations and their Effect on the Retreading Industry
There are two key EC regulations, with which BIPAVER have been concerned in recent years. The first of these is the General Safety Regulation 661/2009, which replaces 92/23, our tyre bible, as of November 1, 2017.
This regulation is related to the Type Approval of vehicles and their components, including tyres, and operates by defining families of products and testing the worst case product within each grup. Once the worst case product is compliant, the whole group receives type approval. The problem is that retreaded tyres do not have type approval, nor do tests exist to test them according to the type approval regulations. It is one of BIPAVER’s goals for the near future to combine the contents of UN-ECE Reg 117 and ECE Reg 109 in order that retreads may also become type approved.
The second important piece of legislation is 1222/2009, the labelling regulation, which becomes effective in 2012. Here the situation is more complex. The Eco-labelling of a series of tyres requires the noise, wet grip and rolling resistance value of each tyre to be ascertained. However, since retreading is not a mass-production process and because retreads can be composed of a wide variety of treads and casings, with many variables, retreading tyres would, in principle, need testing individually, an obvious impossibility.
BIPAVER has been looking for a solution to the problems posed by these regulations since 2005 and, after negotiations with Brussels, had been instrumental in helping secure temporary exemptions from both regulations. However, the exemption from 1222/2009 calls for an EC review by March 2016 at the latest, and, with retreads making up 40% of the market, BIPAVER considers it highly unlikely that retreads would manage to secure any further exemptions from the legislation. With testing in the region of 5,000 Euros per tyre, the position is clear. The retreading industry must find within 4 years a way of labelling retreads to the satisfaction of the authorities if SME retreading in Europe is to survive.
Looking for a Solution
BIPAVER has long realised the potential implications of the forthcoming legislation and prior to 2009 work had already been carried out towards developing a testing project in line with the proposed regulations. However, the proposed research, the former BRV/BAST Project, was based on a relatively “simple” testing programme of only 300 retreads. With the ongoing development of Reg 661 and, more importantly, with the introduction of the Eco-Label, it soon became clear that this particular programme was not sufficient.
In 2009, following a number of meetings held in Brussels on behalf of BIPAVER members, it began to be understood that the only way BIPAVER would be able to raise enough funds to carry out the level of testing required was to obtain funding within the European Commission’s FP7 Programme in conjunction with DG Research (Innovation). The project was hence reborn as the “Retyre” Project.
The Retyre Project
The aim of the testing programme, which will take place under the Retyre Project is to create an IT-tool, which will allow BIPAVER to provide retreaders with predictive information on the likely wet grip, noise and rolling resistance values of their retreads without them having to test every single tyre. By carrying out a series of measurements, an algorithm will be able to be produced as the basic element for this IT-tool. The idea is that the use of this algorithm will become a part of ECE 109. In other words, every retreader within the EC will need to access the algorithm in order to be able to print Eco-labels and hence to produce retreads that are legal under EU legislation.
Initially the project has 13 consortium members. These are as follows:
Kennis Centrum Leiden (the educational establishment, which is acting as the organiser of the project) the four trade associations BRV (Germany), AIRP (Italy), AER (Spain) and SVP-CR (Czech Republic), 5 retreaders, namely Banden Plan Europe, Reifen Ihle, Insa Turbo, Bandvulc and Carling, tread manufacturer Gummiwerk Kraiburg and the two testing establishments BAST and IDIADA.
EU projects like “Retyre” are all about milestones and the first milestone, assuming the project goes ahead, relates to rolling resistance testing. Bearing in mind the high degree of influence that the tyre casing has on rolling resistance, one of the most crucial aspects in deciding whether it will be possible to create a usable IT-tool is establishing whether the rolling resistance values of the various brands of casing are within workable parameters. To begin with, therefore, groups of casings will be buffed to 2mm above the steel and tested for rolling resistance. If the variation in rolling resistance is deemed to be within workable limits then the project will continue. If the variation is too wide the nightmare scenario will occur and the project will be dead in the water. In this case the future for SME retreading in Europe will be bleak.
If, as BIPAVER hopes, the project carries on, a series of 500 tyres will be tested to create a database of results from which the algorithm/ IT-tool will be created. Once the project is completed, retreaders will be able to input tread depth, tread width, tread radius, tyre size, tread pattern, shore hardness and elasticity to create a banding label for noise, wet grip and rolling resistance. Once the label has been printed though, it will remain the responsibility of the retreader to make sure his tyres conform to the banding, as the process will, as previously mentioned, be a part of ECE 109.
The Financing of the Project
As already explained, the cost of the project will be funded largely by the EC. Under the FP7 programme the EC will finance 75% of the project less a 5% contingency budget to allow for any of the consortium partners going into administration. As the testing costs for the project amount to 1.8 million Euros, BIPAVER has placed a 2.5 million Euro value on the project, in order that all the testing costs will be covered by the EC.
Basically, what happens is a follows; The various consortium partners provide inputs in terms of money, tyres, testing facilities, time etc. In order that the project is carried out (each consortium partner already has a budget for this). At the end of the project the EC pays back the consortium partners 75% of what they have spent.
So What Happens Next?
At this point the Retyre Project will be ended and a usable IT-tool will have been created. However, the consortium partners will be out of pocket (as they will have only received 75% of their outlay). At the same time the intellectual property rights of the IT-tool will lie with the consortium partners
In order to get round this problem BIPAVER proposes to buy back the IP rights from the consortium for 240,000 Euros, this being the amount of the total cost of the Retyre Project that according to EC rules has to be paid by the consortium partners in hard cash. In order to raise this money BIPAVER proposes to make a charge to the member associations of BIPAVER over a two and a half year period.
The amount each country will pay has been calculated according to Europool’s truck tyre replacement market figures. The retreading industry in Germany will therefore need to raise approximately 58,000 Euros, Italy 49,000, the UK 47,000, the Netherlands 11,000, Sweden 9,000, Portugal 8,000, Czech Republic 8,000, Denmark 5,000 and Finland 4,000.
So how will the distribution of the algorithm be managed? This is where things begin to be a little less clear, as much has to be decided within BIPAVER. However, the indications are as follows; – Fees for use of the algorithm will probably be on a per tyre basis – BIPAVER member organisations will be responsible for making the algorithm available within their countries and, as IPR owners, will be able to benefit directly from it. – Retreaders who are not members of their national association will be charged a premium for accessing the algorithm. – Retreaders in countries, who do not have a trade association, that is a member of BIPAVER, will also be charged a premium.
As yet there are many unanswered questions. What will be the costs be for unaffiliated retreaders? How much will retreaders who are members of BIPAVER associations be charged – if at all? What will the ongoing costs be? Will the fees be administered by BIPAVER or by member associations? Will the fees be administered by BIPAVER or by member associations? Will the associations be allowed to compete with each other or will they need to acquire from their own country? What about the new tyre manufacturers who are large enough to run their own testing? Will they be able to opt out of using the algorithm or, if the use of the algorithm becomes part of ECE 109, will they have to buy from their national associations? Much has to be decided – but, as they say, watch this space. The next few years within the European retreading industry promise to be very interesting.