Retail

Low-rollers, high road

Bob Ulrich
Posted on May 9, 2011
Bridgestone recently tested its Ecopia EP422 against the tire it is replacing, the Turanza EL400. The 2011 Honda Civic fitted with Ecopia EP422s (right) rolled 98 feet longer. The test compared size 195/65R15 tires at 30 psi. The vehicles were in neutral.

Bridgestone recently tested its Ecopia EP422 against the tire it is replacing, the Turanza EL400. The 2011 Honda Civic fitted with Ecopia EP422s (right) rolled 98 feet longer. The test compared size 195/65R15 tires at 30 psi. The vehicles were in neutral.

"It’s the right thing to do, but it’s also good business,” says Bridgestone Americas Inc. spokesman Dan MacDonald. In one sentence, he summed up the “green movement” in the tire industry.

MacDonald, vice president of community and corporate relations, says there are many ways to embrace both goals. Reducing the weight in a tire not only saves on raw material costs and usage, but also can reduce rolling resistance. With gas prices climbing toward the $4.50 a gallon mark, that is a selling point.

Community involvement also is part of the movement, he adds. Bridgestone is one of many manufacturers with environmentally friendly programs that also promote their brands locally and nationally (see also "Taking the green initiative).

Will gas prices stay above $4 a gallon? Not according to the United States Energy Information Administration (EIA).

The EIA projects that the retail price of regular-grade motor gasoline will average $3.86 per gallon between April 1 and Sept. 30, up 40% from $2.76 per gallon last summer.

However, we may not see sub-$3-per-gallon pricing again in the foreseeable future. The EIA forecasts an average price of $3.70 per gallon in 2011 and $3.80 per gallon in 2012.

In addition, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is close to finalizing a new tire labeling law that requires a fuel efficiency (i.e., low-rolling resistance) rating.

The end result will be tires with lower rolling resistance in addition to more traditional performance characteristics. Here is a listing of the latest fuel efficient passenger and light truck tires manufacturers have to offer.

Bridgestone Ecopia

Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations LLC is dramatically expanding the number of replacement sizes for two of its Ecopia tire lines.

The company introduced its latest eco-friendly Ecopia products in limited sizes at the 2010 Chicago Auto Show. The Ecopia EP422 is an all-season tire; the Dueler H/L 422 Ecopia is an SUV, CUV and light truck tire with an all-season tread pattern.

Bridgestone will add 24 sizes to the Ecopia EP422 line by mid-year, according to Julie Porter, consumer tire product manager for the U.S. and Canada. That will increase the number of sizes to 29, broken out as follows:

• 15- to 18-inch sizes;

• 45 to 65 series aspect ratios;

• 480 UTQG (Uniform Tire Quality Grading) tread wear rating.

The Dueler H/L 422 Ecopia size lineup will increase from six to 19 sizes, ranging from 16 through 20 inches. The tire has a UTQG tread wear rating of 640.

Bridgestone’s Ecopia technology features two types of compounding that reduce rolling resistance. NanoPro-Tech controls the interaction between polymer filler materials (such as carbon black and silica) and other rubber chemicals at the molecular level.

The “Fuel Saver Sidewall” compounding lowers rolling resistance by returning more energy to the tire than a normal sidewall. The result is less heat generation.

Porter says Bridgestone’s goal is taking Ecopia technology and “applying it across all of our tires.”

Continental EcoPlus

The benefits of the Continental ProContact with EcoPlus technology include improved fuel efficiency and an 80,000-mile tread wear warranty, according to Continental Tire the Americas LLC. It also reduces CO2 emissions.

The all-season tire was designed to provide these benefits without sacrificing wet braking.

EcoPlus technology consists of two main components.

1. Tg-F Polymers: temperature activated functional polymers that increase compound bonding, thus improving tread wear and fuel efficiency.

2. +Silane: additives that enhance grip on slippery roads, therefore reducing stopping.

“Every gallon of gasoline saved not only reduces fuel costs for the consumer but also helps to reduce our nation’s dependence on oil.

“In addition to reducing costs, each gallon of gas saved also means up to 20 fewer pounds of toxic CO2 emissions released into the Earth’s atmosphere.”

The Continental ProContact with EcoPlus passenger tire was named Best New Product at the 2010 SEMA Show.

The tire also received an “excellent” rolling resistance rating from “Consumer Reports” in the magazine’s most recent all-season tire tests.

Sample vehicle fitments for the tire include the Buick LaCrosse, Chevy Cobalt, Chrysler Sebring, Dodge Caravan, Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Nissan Altima, Lexus RX330 and Toyota Prius.

The Continental ProContact with EcoPlus is available in 22 T-rated sizes ranging from 185/65R15 to 225/50R18.

Cooper GFE

To meet consumer demand for greater vehicle fuel efficiency, Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. added its first low-rolling resistance tire — the Cooper GFE (Greater Fuel Efficiency) — to its product portfolio. The tire was introduced at the 2008 SEMA Show.

The GFE tire showcases Cooper’s “Energy Return” compounding technology, which will be the backbone of future low rolling resistance products from the company.

Its innovative tread stock features a unique silica technology married to a specialized polymer. In combination, they provide very low rolling resistance, outstanding wet grip and long tread life.

Cooper says the lower rolling resistance of the GFE can reduce fuel use by approximately 3%, resulting in “substantial savings in fuel costs and considerable reduction in the greenhouse gas emissions.”

GITI

The GT Radial Champiro 228 is marketed by the company worldwide as a “performance tire for drivers desiring more than a smooth ride, comfort and excellent grip” but “who also expect eco-friendly and fuel efficient tires.”

The performance touring tire features a Nanotek silica compound for reduced rolling resistance and exceptional grip in wet and dry conditions. Nanotek silica is a GITI Tire Pte. Ltd. manufacturing technology process that utilizes Nano-grade silica modules. These modules, which are smaller than traditional silica modules, are mixed into GITI’s specially formulated polymer-carbon black matrix by employing a silane-based coupling agent and a proprietary mixing technique.

The result is a product that features a highly homogeneous and low hysteresis tread compound that provides the lower rolling resistance, along with the improved wet handling performance.

In addition, the GT Radial Champiro 228 and other GITI tires are produced with non-aromatic oils, a greener manufacturing process. High-aromatic (HA) oils are classified as carcinogens because they contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

Goodyear Fuel Max

Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.’s Assurance Fuel Max is a fuel-efficient passenger tire that also provides confident wet and dry traction.

The tire’s fuel-saving tread compound uses functional polymers that help reduce energy loss as the tire rolls, saving up to 2,600 miles worth of gas over the life of a set of tires compared to other Goodyear tires. A “Wet Tread Zone” with dual aquachannel grooves helps evacuate water from the surface of the tread face for traction on wet roads, and a “Dry Tread Zone” with solid shoulder blocks helps enhance handling and grip on dry pavement.

The Assurance Fuel Max is available in 34 passenger car sizes ranging from 185/65R15 88H to P235/65R17 103H.

An additional 21 sizes are available for SUVs and crossover vehicles in the Assurance CS Fuel Max version.

Goodyear backs both tire lines with a 65,000-mile limited tread wear warranty.

Hankook eco tires

Hankook Tire America Corp. will be launching two low rolling resistant tires specifically for the U.S. market in 2011.

The Optimo H426, a luxury all-season performance touring tire, and the enfren eco, an eco-friendly all-season performance tire, incorporate an advanced silica tread compound into their design to provide lower rolling resistance without sacrificing performance characteristics.

According to Hankook, the Optimo H426 “will sport 20% lower rolling resistance than its predecessor.” It also “adopts a rib-block design to minimize vibration while driving and employs an optimized lateral groove width to generate the least possible noise.

Hercules Ironman iMove

Low rolling resistance is one of the performance driving characteristics of the new Hercules Ironman iMove all-season tire. So is a smooth, comfortable ride.

A continuous center rib provides constant road contact to enhance straight-line handling and dry road response. The silica tread compound and tread design enhance water evacuation.

The tire is available in 44 sizes ranging from 155/70R13 75T to 275/30ZR19 96W. There also are four SUV sizes.

Kumho eco Solus KL21, ecowing KH30

As part of its “Beautiful Company” initiative, Kumho Tire Co. Inc.’ focuses on having optimal low rolling resistance in all of its products. Two primary examples of this are the eco Solus KL21 and the ecowing KH30.

The eco Solus KL21 is an eco-friendly tire for CUVs, SUVs and minivans. It provides even wear and improved wear resistance, while still providing performance and all-season traction.

The ecowing KH30 is equally environmentally conscious. It is formulated with eco-friendly, silica-based compounds, and features low rolling resistance and long tread life — but not at the expense of high performance characteristics such as responsive handling, traction and ride comfort.

Michelin Green X

On the consumer tire side, Michelin North America Inc. promotes its Energy Saver All-Season passenger tire and Latitude Tour light truck, SUV and crossover tire as its flagship fuel efficient tires.

The Energy Saver targets “popular mainstream and hybrid vehicles” and is designed for “exceptional levels of fuel efficiency,” according to the company. Its “Energy Saver Construction” technology keeps the tire running cooler, thus improving its fuel efficiency. The tire also bears Michelin’s “Green X” symbol on its sidewall, “a visual signal to consumers that the tire has a level of increased fuel efficiency.”

The Latitude Tour features special tread compounds that reduce rolling resistance and increase traction compared to the previous generation Latitude Tour. Michelin claims the tires also save up to 82 gallons of fuel over the life of a set.

Nexen NBlue

Nexen Tire America Inc.’s NBlue passenger tire contains a special compound “containing eco-friendly materials,” according to Nexen. The tire also features a special tread pattern designed for stability and mileage, and a “dynamically engineered tread sequence” engineered to reduce road noise.

Pirelli Scorpion Verde All Season

Pirelli Tire North America’s low rolling resistant tire is the Scorpion Verde All Season. Introduced at the 2009 SEMA Show, the all-season tire was designed specifically for SUV’s, crossovers and light trucks.

Compared to previous Pirelli all-season tires, the Scorpion Verde All Season offers 20% less rolling resistance (thanks, in part, to an 8% reduction in weight), lowers CO2 emissions, and lasts longer — all part of Pirelli’s “Green Performance” strategy. The tire’s “green DNA,” as Pirelli likes to say, is identified by the company’s “EcoImpact” symbols on the sidewall.

Energy Efficient: lower rolling resistance = reduced fuel consumption = reduced CO2 emissions. (According to Pirelli’s rolling resistance tests on size 255/55R18 Scorpion Verde All-Season tires, fuel consumption is reduced by 3.2% at a constant speed of 55 mph, and 2.1% at a constant speed of 75 mph.)

Clean Air: manufactured with HAOF (Highly Aromatic Oil Free) compounds and 8% less raw materials = less impact on the environment.

In addition, the tire gives drivers “increased performance in wet braking, dry handling, wet handling, snow traction and reduces aquaplaning.”

It is available in 19 sizes, ranging from P235/70R16 106H to 275/45R20 110V XL. Pirelli says a run-flat version will be available soon.

Toyo Versado

Two of Toyo Tire U.S.A. Corp.’s all-season, luxury performance tires are designed with low rolling resistance in mind: the Versado CUV for crossovers, and the Versado LX II for sedans and coupes.

The Toyo Versado CUV features a new low-rolling resistance compound. It also delivers “an extraordinarily smooth, quiet ride coupled with enhanced handling and stability to meet the unique demands of a crossover.”

The tire is available in 17- through 20-inch sizes with 65- to 50-series aspect ratios.

The Versado LX II features a new silica compound that delivers improvements in both fuel economy and tread life compared to previous Toyo tires. An asymmetric, non-directional tread pattern enables cross rotation that helps reduce irregular wear.

Handling performance is aided by a large contact patch on the outside tread, while snow traction is helped by a high sipe density on the inside tread. Multi-wave sipes help decrease tread block movement under driving and braking conditions for improved tread contact on both wet and dry surfaces.

As it is with the Versado CUV, road noise is reduced using Toyo’s proprietary Silent Wall technology.

“In coming months, we will be introducing Versado Eco,” says Toyo. The all-season tire is designed to complement popular hybrids and other environmentally friendly vehicles, such as the Toyota Prius, Toyota Camry Hybrid, Honda Fit, Honda Civic Hybrid, Honda Insight and Chevy Malibu Hybrid.

Vredestein Quatrac Lite

In 2007 Vredestein introduced the Quatrac 3, a highly successful all season tire. Two years later, the Quatrac 3 SUV joined the family.

Now, Vredestein has unveiled the latest addition to the Quatrac family, the Quatrac Lite. This “green” all season tire meets all the environmental regulations due to be implemented across the European Union in 2012.

Compared to the Quatrac 3, the Quatrac Lite is more focused on fuel efficiency. Even its size range is positioned more toward current and future hybrid and electric cars.

It features a high-tech “Full Polymer Compound” that guarantees low rolling resistance, long life and “excellent” road traction in all conditions, says the company. It is available in 14 sizes.

Yokohama orange oil

A little more orange oil means a lot less petroleum, which is what Yokohama Tire Corp.’s environmentally sensitive dB Super E-spec passenger tires are all about.

“The eco-focused dB Super E-spec mixes sustainable orange oil and natural rubber to drastically cut the use of petroleum, without compromising performance,” says Dan King, vice president of sales. “It also helps consumers save money at the gas pump by improving fuel efficiency via a 20% reduction in rolling resistance and the Airtex Inner Liner that minimizes tire weight and reduces air loss to help the tire stay properly inflated.”

Yokohama’s orange oil-infused tires (which includes Advan ENV-R2 racing tires) utilize sustainable resources such as orange oil and natural rubber to help cut petroleum use during manufacturing. The new compound is called “Super Nano-Power Rubber.”

“Yokohama is the only tire company to have perfected this science,” says Mark Chung, director of corporate strategy and planning.

Related Topics: Bridgestone, Continental, Cooper, Giti, Going green, Goodyear, Hankook Tire, Hercules, Kumho Tire, Michelin, Nexen, Pirelli, Toyo Tires, Vredestein, Yokohama

Bob Ulrich Editor, Retired
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