With fuel prices hovering between $3 and $4 per gallon, operators are always looking for ways to improve fuel efficiency. We’ve all heard the most common approaches: Adjust driving techniques, turn the vehicle off while waiting for clients, keep the vehicles properly tuned, and schedule back-to-back runs in the same areas.
Aside from the givens, tires can boost fuel efficiency, and we’re not talking about the usual maintenance and pressure checks. Newer tire technologies are proving to be fuel savers.
”We have tires use a low rolling resistance technology to help improve mileage,” says Kurt Berger, manager of consumer products for Bridgestone/Firestone’s engineering division in Nashville, Tenn. “Simply put, this allows the tire to roll easier and create less drag, allowing your vehicle’s engine to work less. The end result is less fuel consumption.”
This technology is based on two key factors:
COMPOSITION: These tires are made with a combination of materials that allow them to create less friction with the ground.
DESIGN: The overall design and build of the tire also helps reduce the friction with the ground. This allows the tire to move with less resistance and creates a more efficient revolution of the tire.
Note: The two most noted fuel-saving tires which would apply to the limousine and chauffeured transportation industry are the Bridgestone Turanza EL-42 and the Michelin Energy LX4 tires. These tires offer a wide range of sizes and can be used for sedan and standard SUV applications.
But there are always trade-offs with this type of technology, Berger says. “When you change the design of any tire to improve one aspect, you lose something from another part.” He adds that in this case it would be tread life. “It’s like performance tires for ultra sports cars,” he says. “They require incredible handling. So the tires are made with softer compounds that help the tire grip the road with more force. This causes the tire to wear faster.”
Berger says the same happens with fuel-efficient tires. Because the tires are made to roll easier, the trade-off is that you may not get as many miles out of each tire. “I’m not saying that you’ll only get half as many miles out of one of the sets of the Turanza EL-42 tires rather than a set of Firestone Fr-710s, but there will be a subtle difference between the two.”
Of course, it also depends upon the usual factors: Driving habits, tire rotation, balance, inflation, road conditions, alignment, etc. “Just like anything else, you have to take care of them in order to get the most out of each tire,” Berger adds.
“All tires these days have some measure of the fuel-saving technology,” says Jim Davis, public relations director for Goodyear Tire and Rubber in Akron, Ohio. “It’s a federal guideline that we all have to adhere to.” Davis also says that this technology isn’t new. “The composition and design to create less resistance has been around for more than 20 years,” he says. “It’s just recently that tire companies have really been pushing to improve upon it.”
Davis adds that his company and others always are striving to create a product to give the maximum fuel economy while still delivering safety and performance. “One thing you’ll find is that the tires that come for your new vehicle from the factory are going to be the ones that give the best fuel economy,” he adds. “That’s why the auto manufacturer chooses them. Everything they put on that car when you purchase it is specifically designed to give that vehicle the performance that is represented by the window sticker.”
Davis also adds that although tires are getting more sophisticated and are providing better performance, there is still no substitute for proper inflation and maintenance. “It just comes down to the old saying that if you take care of them, they’ll take care of you.”