‘Tyre tax’ proposed as particulate matter problem raised again

A government advisor has suggested a tyre tax be placed on electric vehicles (EVs), due to the dangerous levels of particulate matter they emit.

Professor Alastair Lewis, Chairman of the government’s independent science advisory group on air pollution, stated that particulate matter from tyres, known as PM2.5, is more dangerous to public health than nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from diesel vehicles.

“If you compare a modern Mini now with an old Mini, they’re almost unrecognisable in their size. Larger, heavier vehicles will generate more particles,” Lewis told The Telegraph.

“PM2.5 is considered to cause the largest amount of damage to public health. NOx comes second.”

With local authorities looking to introduce more and more ultra-low emission zones, including a new proposal in London, the increase in EVs will render such schemes useless as financial drivers. With Vehicle Excise Duty also linked to emissions output, and electric vehicles not required to pay fuel duty, new ways of funding road transport schemes must be found.

Tyre tax a deterant

Lewis added: “When everybody owns a low emissions vehicle, low emission zones become a toothless control lever to try to manage air pollution. A world where we [have] jam-packed roads full of electric cars is not a particularly attractive one. Even if they are electric, [they] will generate lots of particles.”

“At some point in the future when most of those cars have disappeared, a different form of air pollution control” is likely to be needed.”

Speaking to The Telegraph, Luke Bosdet, an AA spokesman, said he was opposed to the idea of any tax on an electric vehicle which would act as a deterrent to them replacing traditional petrol or diesel vehicles.

“Electric vehicles do not produce emissions from their tail pipes,” he said. “They are a massive leap forward. The technology will evolve to reduce anything that comes from the tyres. You should not deter people from buying electric cars.”


Auto Repair Focus first highlighted the problem with tyre particulates in 2018, when the government announced plans to draw up a strategy for brake and tyre emissions. We have covered various different consultations and stories since then, so Professor Lewis’ comments are not new to us.

It is clear that the problem of particulates will not go away when electric vehicles become the norm, and PM2.5 is dangerous to health. Tyre manufacturers are, however, aware of the issue and are constructing tyres specifically built to handle the increased weight of EVs.

This means the particulate problem will filter into the aftermarket instead. Budget tyres will not be built to these rigid specifications. We know that quite often customers will look for cheaper alternatives than the OEM standard, but with EV tyres, the correct choice must be made.

By making garages aware of the problem now, customers who need a change of tyre can be educated on how the correct one will last longer, and also reduce their environmental impact. 

The comments by the AA are troubling. EVs do produce emissions, just not the ones we are used to. While a ‘tyre tax’ may be taking things to the extreme, the problem does need discussing, otherwise drivers will not be aware, and air pollution will continue to rise.

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