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California Fuel Efficient Tire proposals examined

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A draft proposal of the California Energy Commission's (CEC) Fuel Efficient Tire program was presented today (June 10) at a day-long workshop attended by tire manufacturer representatives and tire industry association personnel.

The commission is looking at a rating system for the rolling resistance of passenger and light truck tires sold or available for sale in California.

The CEC proposed a rating system for passenger and LT tires in which all tires of the same size and load index be ranked against each other from lowest to highest Rolling Resistance Force (RRF), i.e., most efficent to least efficient. "All tires with an RRF within 15% of the lowest RRF reported tire for that combined tire size designation and load rating will be rated 'fuel efficient tire," suggests the CEC.

Manufacturers would need to test all of their consumer tires using the identical ISO 28580 test protocol, the CEC says, which was deemed by the commission to be the most accurate. (The CEC notes there are 24,004 total passenger and light truck tire SKUs currently sold in the U.S.)

The CEC says, "The foundation of a government administered product rating system is a comprehensive database providing reliable test results and objective information accessible to everyone. A solid analytical basis combined with full disclosure and transparency inspires the confidence required for a rating system to be successful."

The commission wants the rating system to be consumer friendly and easy to use. But it stresses complete tire data should also be available for anyone interested in in-depth research. "I can't wait to see the creative uses of the data," says one CEC representative.

A rolling resistance rating system will foster market competition, says the CEC. "A ranking system driven by the 'best in class tire' can ignite a competitive spirit."

A spokesman for the Rubber Manufactuers Association (RMA), representing eight tire manufacturer members, reports the tire companies feel the new testing needed to rate the tires will incur more than $20 million in industry costs and require the hiring of additional staff for testing as well as data managment.

The members prefer a five-star rating system based on a scale measuring rolling resistance coefficients, which will provide "more robust, reliable information for consumers."

The RMA wants a "self-certification" system in place wherein the companies would watch what each other does and challenge ratings they feel are incorrect.

Also, the RMA pointed out, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is developing a federal-level tire rolling resistance regulation, thus the "California-only rule may not be prudent," the spokesman said.

The RMA also wants to test fewer tires, perhaps every second or third tire in a tire line from which the tire manufacturer can extrapolate accurate data.    




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