UHP eco factor

May 22, 2013

Tire makers today are challenged to keep up with consumer demands. When it comes to ultra-high performance (UHP) tires, they’re also challenged by new car manufacturers that continue to drive the UHP tire trend.

According to the 2013 Modern Tire Dealer Facts Issue, OE tire shipments have steadily increased from 34.6 million units in 2010 to 40.7 million in 2012, when many OEMs released new models with UHP fitments.

Knowing the nature of the modern UHP tire consumer, how do you sell tires to them? Especially since consumer spending is expected to remain flat in 2013. One way is through green initiatives.

As original equipment manufacturers feel the pressure to reduce emissions and lower fuel consumption, they are turning to tire manufacturers to help with the cause. More new car models every year are being fitted with low rolling resistant tires. We asked tire makers, “Are you involved in developing green UHP tires?” Here’s what they told us.

Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations LLC

Bridgestone is focused on producing tires that are more “eco-friendly,” even in the UHP segment. Some of our newer UHP tires benefit from lighter-weight materials while still delivering longer wear life versus their predecessors. We are also seeing improvements in fuel efficiency thanks to lower rolling resistance. When you combine these factors, there is definitely a positive impact on the environment. — Robert Saul, manager of product planning

Continental Tire the Americas LLC

We currently use many green technologies in UHP tires and continue to develop new technologies for future products. Dynamic Temperature Distribution is a technology used in both the ExtremeContact DW (summer UHP) and Extreme-Contact DWS (all-season UHP) to reduce rolling resistance and improve tread life while maintaining grip.

In the manufacturing process, strong intermolecular bonds are formed by optimized chemical distribution and curing. The strong intermolecular bonds reduce distortions in the tread which improves both rolling resistance and tread life.

Another method for reducing rolling resistance while maintaining outstanding grip is to focus on components that do not directly touch the road. They are the sidewall, the apex and the body plies. Continental uses low hysteresis materials with advanced processing technology in these components in order to reduce rolling resistance. On the manufacturing side, we are working continuously to reduce CO2 emissions, conserve energy and water, and reduce scrap in our manufacturing facilities. — Bob Liu, product manager, performance tires

Cooper Tire & Rubber Co.

Cooper Tire continually strives to develop and produce tires that meet and exceed the UHP customers’ expectations. The continual research, product development and testing allows Cooper Tire to quickly react to the trends in the market, including those for UHP tires.

To understand how Cooper can make a product more environmentally sustainable, we analyze its footprint throughout its entire life cycle — from the procurement of raw materials, to manufacturing, consumer use and disposal, and in advice to customers as to tire care and use.

A good example of how Cooper is working to protect the environment is with the introduction of the ultra-fuel efficient product known as the “GFE” (Greater Fuel Efficiency). The GFE tire showcases Cooper’s compounding technology with an innovative tread stock featuring a unique silica technology married with a specialized polymer to provide low rolling resistance, outstanding wet grip and long tread life.

Cooper’s Energy Return Technology will be a backbone for low rolling resistance products in the years ahead. The lower rolling resistance of the GFE can reduce fuel use by approximately 3%, resulting in substantial fuel cost savings and considerable reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. — Scott Jamieson, director of product management

GITI Tire (USA) Ltd.

Being green can be interpreted different ways. Through the efforts of our owners and our executive chairman, we have several global efforts aimed at preserving the earth, such as saving approximately 100 years of carbon emissions through conservation projects with Conservation International. These projects preserve over a million acres of intact rainforest along with preserving the habitats for hundreds of species.

Our production methods and material are driven to be as environmentally friendly as feasible. On a UHP product basis, being a global supplier, we strive to provide lower rolling resistance in each of our product lines while delivering on the quality and performance (grip and handling) the consumer needs and demands. — David Shelton, director of marketing


Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.

In any of our consumer tires, Goodyear considers fuel efficiency as a leg of the tire development performance triangle, which is comprised of traction, tread wear and rolling resistance. Consumer preference studies show UHP consumers to be most interested in grip, traction and steering response, rather than fuel efficiency.

In terms of the other side of green tires — the manufacturing side — Goodyear has consistently been recognized for its environmental efforts.

This includes sending no manufacturing waste to landfills since 2008, converting its plants to zero solvent use, and reducing water and energy use in manufacturing.

All of this contributes to Goodyear being named to the Newsweek annual ranking of America’s Greenest Companies. In the magazine’s 2012 rankings of the 500 largest U.S. corporations, Goodyear was the only tire maker on the Newsweek U.S. list, and the second-highest ranked company in the automotive industry. — Tara Foote, high performance marketing manager

Hankook Tire America Corp.

The company is focusing on fuel-efficient compounds, more fuel efficiency and run-flat tires, which means fewer tires are made and sold, which is better for the environment.

Hercules Tire & Rubber Co.

We believe there will be a bigger push by the industry toward green UHP tires in the coming years, but it is not a key segment of Hercules’ product portfolio at this time. — Steven Liu, director of consumer product marketing

Kenda USA

The VezdaEco currently has over 20 sizes in both H- and V-rated tires. We went with the higher speed rating because the industry trend seems to be moving to faster speed ratings from S and T to H and V.

In many years past, UHP patterns have always looked very aggressive, many of which carried the v-shaped tread pattern. Recent trends in Europe and the United States have trended towards less aggressive patterns and more of the asymmetrical look — something more sleek and modern.

Many of the eco-tires we were studying in our VezdaEco development either carried smaller sizes or lower speed ratings and we wanted to try and bridge that gap between asymmetrical patterns and the initial eco-tire market tires that were available at the time. We don’t see a need for an eco ultra-high performance tire used for racing purposes at the moment, but you never know what people will come up with next. — Eric Yang, automotive marketing manager

Kumho Tire U.S.A. Inc.

Green will be built into every tire in the future; the question is, how much green and how much UHP performance will remain. As more every day-use cars come with higher speed-rated tires we will see green technology expand into this segment. New technology will drive new ways to get more performance out of a tire and still add green attributes.

Michelin North America Inc.

Michelin has long been committed to delivering energy-efficient tires. In 1992, we launched our green energy-saving tires, which integrated silica in the tread as a partial substitute for carbon black. Silica helps to lower rolling resistance without compromising performance in traction, grip (especially on wet surfaces) and tread life. This innovation made a significant improvement in reducing the energy needed to keep a vehicle moving, enabling a significant reduction in fuel consumption.

Michelin green energy-saving tires include a variety of passenger car, light truck and commercial truck tires that are optimized for fuel economy by reducing their rolling resistance and mass without compromising other key performance factors such as traction, grip and tread wear.

The most recent example of an ultra-high performance tire that benefits from Michelin’s focus on delivering efficiencies is the Pilot Sport A/S3. — Doug Brown, Sport UHP brand category manager

Pirelli Tire North America

Since tires can have a significant impact on fuel consumption and because we have proprietary leading-edge technology, we work closely with new car makers in the development of green UHP tires. Green not only in terms of reduced fuel consumption, but also in terms of the manufacturing process and materials. — Tom Gravalos, vice president of marketing and original equipment

Sentaida International Inc.

Our factory is very active in researching and developing UHP and HP tire compounds that will improve gas mileage by reducing the tire’s rolling resistance.

Our flagship tires sold in Europe have achieved B ratings in the fuel efficiency and wet grip standards set by the European Union. We are working rigorously to adapt the compound and meet the condition of American driver preferences.

The challenge is to build a tire that will have better than average fuel efficiency, wet grip and also provide better than average mileage, which is the key preference for American drivers. — Maxwell Wee, director of sales

Yokohama Tire Corp.

Low rolling resistance and fuel efficiency will continue to become increasingly important in all segments, including UHP tires. — Andrew Briggs, director of product planning    ■