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How Nitrogen-Filled Tires Can Make Electric Vehicles Greener

Benefits of Maintaining Proper Tire Pressure with Nitrogen

Tires are designed for a specific pressure, and fuel economy improves by over 3% when that pressure is conserved. However, the US Department of Energy estimates that incorrectly inflated tires waste 3.56 million gallons of gas each year. When tires are filled with nitrogen, they lose pressure four times slower than air-filled tires. Conserving the pressure of tires improves fuel economy, and charge is used more efficiently in the case of electric vehicles. Electric vehicles bring several environmental benefits by themselves, even before adding nitrogen-filled tires. They can run with renewable energy sources, something that is not possible with gas cars. A common argument against EVs is that they provide no benefit when fossil fuels still dominate the power grid. However, this is not the case:

  • Even if a power grid still runs 100% on fossil fuels, electric vehicles reduce emissions in urban areas, concentrating them at power plants.
  • Power stations burn fossil fuels more efficiently than gas cars, and they are subject to more stringent regulations.
  • If a power grid is decarbonized in the future, electric vehicles transition to renewable sources seamlessly – they run with electricity regardless of how it is generated. On the other hand, gas cars cannot switch to clean energy, unless they are modified to become electric.

The benefits of electric vehicles are enhanced with nitrogen-filled tires, thanks to the increase in energy efficiency. However, there are still several barriers to overcome before EVs can become mainstream.

How the Building Sector Can Incentive the Use of EVs

One of the main limitations for electric vehicles is the lack of charging infrastructure. However, building owners can change this by adding parking spaces with EV chargers. This way, owners of electric vehicles can get charge in places other than their homes. If these units have fast charging capabilities, they can fill up an EV during an errand such as going to the supermarket. In addition, building owners who are seeking a LEED certification can earn points by having charging stations.

Since nitrogen-filled tires increase energy efficiency in an EV, each charge lasts slightly longer. The frequency of charging cycles is reduced, and EV batteries have a longer service life as a result. This is a significant benefit, since batteries are among the most expensive components in EVs.

Using Federal Tax Credits to Incentive EVs

The government can also incentive the use of electric vehicles with legislation. Perhaps the best example is the federal tax credit for EVs, which ranges from $2,500 to $7,500 per vehicle. The benefit applies separately for vehicles from each manufacturer, and it starts to phase out when 200,000 EVs of the same brand have been sold.

The full list of eligible vehicles for the tax credit has been published by the US Department of Energy and the US Environmental Protection Agency. Note that the benefit not only covers EVs, but also plug-in electric hybrids.

Synergy Between Nitrogen-Filled Tires and Electric Vehicles

Nitrogen inflation and electric vehicles provide environmental benefits separately, and synergy is achieved when both concepts are combined. While nitrogen-filled tires reduce the energy consumption of vehicles, the use of EVs can help decarbonize transportation by switching to clean energy sources.

Nitrogen also reduces waste, since the gas is free of two corrosive agents found in the air: oxygen and water vapor. Tires not only lose pressure at a slower rate, but they also last longer. The noncorrosive nature of nitrogen is especially beneficial for metallic components of tires, such as rims. At the same time, EV batteries can have a longer service life with less frequent charging cycles.

Credit:
Michael Tobias PE, LEED, AP, CEM
Founder of Chicago Engineers, New York, NY
Mandates Integration of Energy Efficient Green Technology
To Achieve Net Zero Energy Standards

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Benefits of Nitrogen

Beneficial Nitrogen Applications

Over the course of this century, the use of nitrogen has exploded. Nitrogen is found in a wide array of sources such as factory and power plant emissions, car exhaust and farm fertilizer. Scientists predict that nitrogen levels will rise two or three times above current levels, which can dramatically affect the planet. But despite concerns over the excessive use of nitrogen, there are some applications that consider it beneficial. Two applications that use nitrogen to keep the planet green are tire inflation and forest fertilization.

 

The Benefits of Nitrogen When Used to Fill Up Tires

Typically tires are filled up with air which consists of 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen and 1% miscellaneous gases. But there are several arguments in favor of filling up tires with pure nitrogen instead:

 

Permeates More Slowly Through Rubber

Compared to oxygen, nitrogen is less likely to migrate through the rubber of tires. Nitrogen can stay in tires approximately 1/3 longer than oxygen. This benefit allows drivers to check their tire pressure less frequently. Monthly tire checks shouldn’t be eliminated, but nitrogen gives drivers better tire pressure and maintenance flexibility (especially for people who don’t maintain their vehicles well).

 

Tire Pressure Stability Over a Longer Period of Time

This results in more consistent inflation pressures, even with sudden changes in temperature. This is one of the main reasons that race car tires are filled with nitrogen; even if the tires heat up quickly there will be a minimal shift in PSI. Nitrogen pressure in tires are also affected by colder temperatures, but will lose PSI at a slower rate than tires filled with air that consists of oxygen.

 

Doesn’t Allow Moisture Into the Tire

The purer the nitrogen content, the less likely moisture will remain in a tire. It takes time to fill and purge the tires with dry nitrogen, but once complete all water will be removed from tires. Filling up with nitrogen will increase the longevity of tires because the tire’s steel components are less susceptible to corrosion. Keeping the bead, sidewall reinforcement and belts dry can ensure that tires will last longer.

 

Improved Fuel Economy

Since filling your tires with nitrogen allows for better pressure retention, you can also improve your vehicle’s fuel economy. According to Edmunds, “under-inflated tires can lower gas mileage by 0.3 percent for every 1 PSI drop in pressure of all four tires”.

 

Diverts Tires From the Landfill

The benefits above allow vehicle owners to have tires that require less maintenance and can be kept for longer periods of time. The longer tires can be used, the less we’ll see in landfills. The manufacturing and disposal of tires is resource intensive, so the longer they can be used the better.

 

The Benefits of Nitrogen When Used to Fertilize Forests

To a certain degree, nitrogen can be beneficial to plant life and act as a fertilizer to encourage growth. With the predicted increase in nitrogen levels over the next century, scientists are curious to see how forests will react to two or three times more nitrogen than we’re seeing today. Kurt Pregitzer and his team at the University of Nevada, Reno decided to fertilize four experimental forests in northern Michigan to find out.

 

As expected, the increased levels of nitrogen stimulated tree growth. The extra growth and maturity of the trees will allow more carbon to be absorbed from the atmosphere and stored. But what surprised Pregitzer and his team was the slower decomposition of the twigs and other tree litter on the forest floor. According to The Atlantic, “lignin—the tough substance that gives vegetables their crunch and is quite good at storing carbon—proved more resistant to the forest floor’s microbes”. Having more lignin on the forest floors also allows for more carbon to be sequestered. Pregitzer said that the team didn’t anticipate the effect nitrogen would have on the storage of carbon in the soil.

 

Final Thoughts

Although the explosion of human-induced nitrogen has some negative effects on environmental and human health, there are some ways in which nitrogen can also be useful. When applied to tires, nitrogen can help improve the fuel economy of vehicles and allow owners to replace their tires less frequently. By extending the lifecycle of tires, less resources are being used to manufacture them and more tires are being diverted from the landfills.

 

In this time of climate uncertainty, carbon sinks are becoming increasingly important. From the research conducted by Pregitzer and his team, we see the benefits of nitrogen as a fertilizer and ability to enhance the forest floor’s carbon capture. Although more research needs to be done to understand this change in soil chemistry, we’re able to see how forests might benefit from increases in nitrogen levels.

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