Environmental Tires

Perhaps nothing on the average automobile is as taken for granted as its tires. Most people know they're black and round, and not much else. But tires can not only improve the handling of your car, but also serve as a hidden asset on the forefront of the battle against pollution and fuel waste.

Tires? Tires can aid in the battle against pollution? You've got to be kidding me! Well, no, we're not. Tires are not simply crucial in maintaining your vehicle's contact with the road surface; new, specially engineered tires are aiding the cause of better fuel economy and fewer exhaust emissions.

The key design element the new ecologically friendly tires share: lower rolling resistance. What's that? In layman's terms, a low-rolling-resistance tire creates less friction during operation than a conventional tire, and, because friction between the road surface and the tire requires extra power to overcome, the net result is better fuel economy versus the same vehicle equipped with conventional tires. Picture rolling a golf ball on pavement versus rolling a foam rubber ball and you can get some grasp of the overall concept of low rolling resistance.

Because low rolling resistance is so helpful in achieving excellent fuel economy, virtually all of the state-of-the-art gasoline-electric hybrids on the road today use them. Bridgestone Tire is on the forefront in that area with its Potenza RE92 standard equipment on the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight, while its B381 is standard on the Honda Civic Hybrid. When it comes to electric vehicles, the Bridgestone Ecopia is standard on the Toyota RAV4 EV and the Honda EV Plus.

All of these tires have been specially designed for lower rolling resistance with lightweight, high-strength construction. This maximizes fuel efficiency, which contributes to cleaner-running vehicles, because, as a rule, vehicles that use less fuel also produce fewer emissions. And since fuel economy seems very important in most vehicle types these days, many of Bridgestone's other tires are also designed with low rolling resistances as a key attribute. To test the tire concepts Bridgestone engineers dove into solar car racing and fuel mileage research, developing valuable technologies for use on commercial vehicles.

"These applications show how we have been able to take what we learned in the development of the Ecopia line and incorporate it into our other tire lines, to meet the requirements of the original equipment manufacturers for these vehicles," said Mark Emkes, chairman, CEO and president of Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire. "Given the success of the Ecopia in solar powered car contests, this is an important continuation of our long-term practice of 'Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday.'"

Cleveland-based auto journalist Luigi Fraschini writes frequently on technology and its relationship to fuel economy. He has moderate rolling resistance as well.