Economical tyresEconomical tyres have less rolling resistance than standard tyres. This means you don't use as much fuel which is both great for your finances and for the environment. Fuel efficient tyre manufacturers say there are no disadvantages to them, which if true, means they should be the choice of every car owner.
Since the growth in economical cars, tyre manufacturers have also been researching how they can contribute to fuel efficiency. The biggest manufacturers in the low rolling resistance tyre market include Michelin, Hankook and Bridgestone.
Their tyres work by reducing friction within the tyre compound which accounts for about 20% of a car's petrol use. Economical tyres have a new rubber compound containing silica which reduces friction between the molecules. This means less energy goes to waste and your car consumes less fuel. Tyre makers are keen to make it clear that the lower friction of the new rubber compound does not lead to any less grip of the tyre on the road.
Michelin's fuel efficient tyre is the Green-X and already they account for about 70% of Michelin's range! They're available from 13 to 17 inches and can be fitted to most cars. Michelin were the trail blazers of economical tyres because they first started selling them way back in 1992. However its only more recently that the market really took off for them. Michelin believe that their Green-X range actually have more grip than some conventional rubber. Michelin say the tyres 'get up to operating temperature faster and maintain a more uniform temperature, which is better for grip.' The companys own research found their economical tyres saved drivers between 4 and 8% on petrol and lasted 25% longer than standard compounds.
Hankook's low rolling resistance tyre is called the Enfren. The manufacturer says it has 20% less resistance than ordinary tyres translating into a fuel saving of somewhere between 2 and 7.5 per cent.
Bridgestone also make a fuel efficient tyre called the Ecopia. Its available in sizes from 14 to 17 inches. Bridgestone have researched their tyre and found it had a fuel economy benefit of 3.3% on average.
So is it all good news about these economical tyres then? Well one drawback which manufacturers forget to tell you about is the price of them. They sell for around 30% more than ordinary tyres so you need to bear this in mind when considering fuel savings.
The respected Australian motoring website Drive.com.au carried out some real world testing of Michelin and Hankook's fuel efficient tyres. Their fairly extensive testing yielded the following results. Michelin's Green-X tyre gave a 6% improvement in fuel consumption and Hankook's tyre gave a 4% improvement over standard tyres. Drive.com.au also found that grip and performance differences were negligible when compared to standard tyres. Low rolling resistance tyres definitely work then, offering better fuel economy for your car and saving carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere while not degrading driving characteristics.
The question is, taking into account the higher initial outlay do these tyres make financial sense? A car tyre for an average family car costs about £80 and a low rolling resistance version for the same car costs around £120. So for four efficient tyres you'll pay a premium of around £120. If the economical tyres had a lifespan of 25000 miles, then at 35 miles per gallon and with petrol costing £6 a gallon you'd spend £4300 over the life of the tyres on fuel. With ordinary tyres fitted instead of economy tyres you'd spend around £4500, which is only a saving of £200. It'll almost cost you that to have the eco tyres fitted in the first place.
So don't expect to save lots of cash by using fuel efficient tyres but they are much better for the environment and you'll break even financially or do better. When fuel prices rise further or if you drive a car that has bad fuel economy then you'll start to see some real savings.
Brand new cars are increasingly being sold with economical tyres especially eco cars like Toyota's Prius and Ford's Fiesta Econetic. The tyres increase the all important fuel mileage figure which is so competitive among manufacturers right now. The fitting of these tyres to new vehicles should increase as they gain more trust and acceptance amongst drivers so in the future they may eventually replace the ordinary tyre.
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