Tiremakers Offer Fuel-Saving Rubber - But Compared to What? - Tire Review Magazine

Tiremakers Offer Fuel-Saving Rubber – But Compared to What?

The green movement and the desire to save money at the gas pump have driven motorists to welcome fuel-efficient tires with open arms. Even in these penny-pinching times of slow economic recovery, if a set of tires can deliver real fuel savings, consumers are generally willing to spend a little extra up-front.
fuel-efficient tires, like yokohama's db super e-spec pictured here, are offered by the majority of tire manufacturers to give consumers savings at the pump without sacrificing ride performance.
But as more and more tiremakers jump into the fuel-sipping fray, dealers are left with the task of sorting out the merits of all those tire options and translating that information for their customers.

To get an update on the market, we contacted several tire manufacturers who currently offer fuel-efficient passenger tires. Read on for some guidance in making tire recommendations for your customers, as well as to find out how a universal fuel efficiency measurement could affect your sales strategy.

What fuel-efficient passenger tires do you currently offer?

Julie Porter, product manager, Bridgestone Americas: “We have two main replacement all-season Ecopia product lines, the Bridgestone Ecopia EP422, available in 30 sizes and de­signed for passenger cars and minivans; and the Bridgestone Dueler H/L 422 Ecopia, available in 19 sizes, designed for CUVs and SUVs.”

She noted Bridgestone also markets its Turanza with Serenity Technology and Dueler A/T Revo 2 as “eco products.” The designation shows that the tires have environmentally-advanced materials like low-aromatic oil and silica technology, improved rolling resistance, and one or more of the following: reduced tire weight, longer-lasting tread and lower-noise technology.

Travis Roffler, director of marketing, Continental Tire the Americas: “While we have a long tradition of producing excellent rolling resistance tires and have implemented that into all of our product lines, the introduction of the Continental ProContact with EcoPlus Technology last year and soon to be introduced this August, Continental CrossContact LX20 with EcoPlus Technology, has really taken that to a new level.”

Bob Toth, director of new products, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.: “Goodyear offers the Assurance Fuel Max power line, which includes the Assurance Fuel Max passenger tire and the Assurance CS Fuel Max for SUVs and CUVs. With 55 sizes available, it’s the most comprehensive fuel-efficient product line in the market.”

Doug Girvin, director of product marketing, Michelin North America: “Michelin currently offers a full line of energy-saving tires that are optimized for fuel economy by reducing their rolling resistance and weight without compromising key performance factors such as traction, grip and tread wear. These tires are identified by the ‘Green X’ logo marked on the sidewall of the tire and in­clude: HydroEdge, Primacy MXV4, Primacy MXM4, Latitude Tour and LTX M/S2 tires. Additionally, Michelin offers the Energy Saver A/S tire, which provides best-in-class fuel efficiency.”

Fardad Niknam, senior director of technical, Toyo Tire U.S.A. Corp.: “The newest is our all-season Versado Eco, developed specifically for hybrids and other environmentally-friendly vehicles…It provides lower rolling resistance for improved fuel economy while at the same time delivering excellent tread life and a smooth, quiet ride. It uses naturally derived materials in the tread compound and recycled polyester in the tire casing. The Versado LX II, an update to our Versado LX, is an eco-friendly touring tire for luxury sedans and coupes. Our Versado CUV for crossovers and minivans is an all-season, luxury performance tire designed specifically for crossover vehicles. It features a 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.”

Mark Chung, director of corporate strategy and product planning, Yoko­hama Tire Corp.: “Our flagship eco-tire, the dB Super E-spec, is the first tire in the industry to utilize a combination of natural rubber and orange oil to deliver superb rolling resistance while not compromising on grip.”

What kind of testing has been done on these particular tires?

Bridgestone’s Porter: “Obviously we do a lot of testing on our tires, specifically industry standard ISO 28580 rolling resistance testing to determine the tire’s impact on fuel economy.”

Continental’s Roffler: “We are working with ISO 28580 to determine our rolling resistance levels. This is the same test adopted by the European Union and NHTSA as the regulatory standard on rolling resistance.”

Goodyear’s Toth: “In addition to the full line of testing performed on all our new tires, we measure the tire’s rolling resistance and its impact on vehicle fuel economy. Our rolling resistance lab tests are used to compare the difference in force between ‘control’ tires and the Assurance Fuel Max. Our vehicle fuel economy tests, performed at Goodyear’s San Angelo, Texas, proving grounds, use fuel consumption monitoring equipment to measure the amount of fuel used over a specified distance.”
Goodyear says its Assurance Fuel Max is the most comprehensive fuel-efficient product line in the market, with 55 sizes available.
Michelin’s Girvin: “These tires are subjected to the same rigorous internal and regulatory test standards that all Michelin tires must pass. In addition, we measure the rolling resistance of the tire to be sure it complies with our ‘Green X’ requirements.”

Toyo’s Niknam: “We conduct a num­ber of tests including rolling resistance, handling and wear.”

Yokohama’s Chung: “Of course, the typical rolling resistance measurements are implemented. However, all of our fuel-efficient tires are subjected to a very rigorous, full battery of tests to ensure not only class-leading rolling resistance figures but also top quality and performance.”

What are the specific fuel efficiency claims of these tires, and to what tires are they being compared?

Porter: “The Bridgestone Ecopia EP422 is compared to the Bridgestone Turanza EL400, which is a conventional touring tire. The rolling resistance is improved approximately 36%. The Bridgestone Dueler H/L 422 Ecopia is compared to the Dueler H/L Alenza, a conventional highway touring tire. The rolling resistance is improved approximately 42%.”

Roffler: “We do not see a need to pick one competitor or the other (for comparison purposes). Our tires are not only fuel-efficient, but have been designed to be extremely well-balanced without compromising other performance characteristics. Our new Continental ProContact and Cross­Contact LX20 each have EcoPlus Technology, which means that they are the best in the wet and are very competitive in fuel efficiency without the trade-offs found in some of our competitors.”

Toth: “Goodyear’s fuel-saving tread compound helps save up to 2,600 miles worth of fuel over the life of four tires. The claim of ‘up to 2,600 miles’ is based on a 4% fuel economy improvement on a 65,000-mile tread life limited warranty, as compared to the standard Goodyear Assurance P195/65R15 size tire tested on a 2008 Honda Civic. Actual results may vary depending on when tires are replaced, driving and road conditions, and proper tire maintenance.”

Girvin: “The Michelin Energy Saver A/S is 8% more fuel-efficient than the Bridgestone Turanza EL400, a leading competitor in the A/S tire category.”

Chung: “The Super E-spec’s rolling resistance coefficient is approximately 22% better than the Toyota Prius’ OE tire.”

How are these tires being marketed to consumers?

Porter: “A key feature is our fuel calculator (bridgestonetire.com/fuelcalculator), where you can see based on your vehicle mpg what you could save in fuel costs. Additionally, when developing the Ecopia products we assured that we created a balanced tire that maintained the features you expect from a Bridgestone touring tire while improving the fuel economy. We back up the tread life, which contributes to the consumers’ total life cycle cost of owning these tires, with our 65,000-mile warranty.”

Roffler: “Again, it is important to remember that we are not looking to turn this into a niche ‘fuel-efficient’ tire with very good rolling resistance performance at the cost to all of the other attributes. Our products are developed to bridge the gap between being very good at fuel efficiency and very good in braking and handling. Our EcoPlus Technology goes beyond that and saves extra money at the pump to give the other side of the performance equation without compromises.”

Toth: “Goodyear’s Assurance Fuel Max tires are marketed using a combination of print, online, in-store and public relations promotions. In-store fuel savings calculators are used to help consumers understand how much they could save by purchasing Fuel Max tires.”

Girvin: “These tires are marketed to help consumers understand that Michelin tires can improve the fuel efficiency of their vehicles without compromising tire tread wear and safety.”

What are the pros and cons for manufacturers, dealers and consumers with regard to there being one single basis on which tire fuel efficiency can be measured?

Roffler: “We encourage one measure for fuel efficiency within tires, as long as it’s the correct measure. Consumers are not typically making a purchasing decision on what size tire to buy specifically with rolling resistance in mind. We strongly believe similar size tires should be compared to each other in a reasonable way, and the method should clearly differentiate the performance of same-size tires. The consumer should know what they are getting in the tires that they buy and not be fooled by a measurement system without them in mind. If a customer is looking at two different tires for their Ford F-150, we want to make sure that these two tires are being measured against each other and not a tire from a Honda Accord. It is not a fair comparison to the consumer.

“We are in favor of any system used to make common sense to the consumer, because we are not afraid of direct competition. It gives the better manufacturers a chance to show their technology, allows the dealer to compare similar tires and empowers the consumer to make a well-thought-out, informed decision on what they are buying.”

Toth: To have a single basis on which tire fuel efficiency is measured and reported could be beneficial to consumers if the measure is meaningful, accurate and easy to interpret. The tire industry is working with NHTSA to establish a methodology that can be used to rank or grade tires for rolling resistance. The idea is to have tire manufacturers grade tires for rolling resistance based on a methodology defined by the government. Dealers could then use the rolling resistance grade to help consumers compare the rolling resistance level of tires they are considering for their vehicles.”

Girvin: “Michelin supports the idea of a tire labeling initiative to give consumers better access to tire performance information. Fuel efficiency should be one of the performances on the label…The challenge is to find a grading scale that sufficiently differentiates tires and is meaningful to the consumer.”

Niknam: “One single testing method for rolling resistance and fuel efficiency would create consistency and uniformity, offering a way to truly compare product to product. However, the new system will require education of both dealers and consumers.”

Chung: “As mentioned, the tire’s contribution to a vehicle’s overall fuel efficiency is difficult to measure due to a myriad of variables. In the end, whichever metric we use must accurately measure a tire’s rolling resistance but also be meaningful to the customers.”

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