6802 Peters Creek Road
Roanoke, VA 24019

Where the Rubber Meets The Road - Low Rolling Resistance Tires

May 1st, 2015

Tires in Roanoke, VAAutomakers are doing everything they can to comply with Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFÉ) standards, and tires definitely figure into CAFÉ numbers.

A great deal of the energy that your car’s engine produces is lost before it makes its way to the road to get your car going. Tires are the final part of that equation; by some estimates, as much as 5 to 15 percent of your car’s fuel is used just to overcome the rolling resistance and friction of tires on pavement. Engineers figure tire pressure, tread formulation, tread pattern and internal construction into low-rolling-resistance (LRR) tire designs. Early LRR tires tended to sacrifice tread life and wet-weather traction, but that’s no longer really the case with newer designs. And as with all emerging technologies, early LRR tire designs were significantly more expensive, only to have prices come down again.

But are they really worth it?

A tire flexes as it rolls; the bottom of the tire, supporting the vehicle’s weight, will bulge outward and distort. This deformation and flexing of the tire, along with the friction from the pavement’s surface, generates heat and wastes energy; the whole idea of a LRR tire is to reduce both friction and heat. An overinflated tire will also have lower rolling resistance, but at the price of ride quality and traction, since the tire’s contact patch is smaller when overinflated.

The rule of thumb is that a 10 percent decrease in rolling resistance adds up to a 1-2 percent boost in fuel economy. That may not sound like much, but it adds up when projected over a year’s time. The average American drives around 12,000 miles a year; at roughly 22 mpg, that comes out to 550 gallons of fuel. If gas is $3.50 per gallon, that 2 percent savings in gas would come to about $38.50 – in other words, the cost of roughly one tank of gas.

In addition to LRR designs, tire makers such as Michelin, Goodyear, Continental and others are striving to make their tires more “green.” That includes innovations like using recycled materials in the tread, replacing polyester cord with rayon and incorporating citrus oils, rapeseed oil and other natural oils to cut fossil fuel use in tire construction. Low rolling resistance has made its way to commercial tires as well, even with the deep tread grooves and heavy load capacity that commercial tires require.

The world of tire technology is changing fast, and LRR tires might be a good fit for your vehicle too. Give us a call at Star City Tire & Battery Service at 6802 Peters Creek Road in Roanoke and let us see if there are some LRR tires that might be a good fit for you! 

  Posted in: Tires 101