Low Rolling Resistance Tires – Worth it, or just hype?
Today I will discuss low rolling resistance tires. The U.S Department of Energy says that anywhere from 5%-15% of fuel economy is used to overcome rolling resistance (defined as the force resisting the motion when a tire rolls on a surface). That’s a considerable amount of fuel to spend on your tires, and with the cost of fuel today, that adds up! I’ll discuss low rolling resistance tires, as well as some information about how to increase your fuel economy with your tires.
Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE):
Congress introduced CAFE standards in 1975 with the intent of reducing energy consumption by increasing the fuel economy of light trucks and passenger cars. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, set standards to increase CAFE levels in the upcoming years. Their reasoning behind this is that it will improve our nation’s energy security, and at the same time it will save the average consumer money at the pump. In 2012, NHTSA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a final ruling extending the CAFE standards for vehicles for model years 2017-2025. NHTSA estimates that that those standards will save around 4 billion barrels of oil and 1.8 billion metric tons of CO2 emissions over the lifetimes of 2017-2025 model year vehicles. NHTSA estimates that the increased cost of purchasing a vehicle will be offset by the savings in fuel economy. The new standards put forth will almost double the current fuel efficiency of vehicles, with a MPG of 54.5. This is huge! NHTSA compares the savings gained through fuel efficiency to be as comparable to lowering the price of gasoline by $1 per gallon in 2025.
What This Means for Us:
Rolling resistance is defined as the force resisting the motion when a tire rolls on a surface. While future vehicles will be held to this high standard, current vehicles have already been upgraded with better fuel efficiency. With the recent trend of hybrid vehicles becoming popular, most vehicle manufacturers are looking for ways to increase fuel efficiency even more. One way to increase fuel efficiency is to install Low Rolling Resistance (LRR) tires. Low rolling resistance tires are said to increase your fuel economy over the life of the tire, resulting in less money being spent at the pump. For example, Goodyear claims that their Assurance Fuel Max tire reduces rolling resistance by up to 27%, resulting in saving up to 2,600 miles worth of gas over the life of 4 tires. This would be about a 4% improvement in fuel economy. Michelin claims that their Energy Saver A/S tire can save up to $400 in gas over the life of 4 tires, and that your tires will last up to 16,000 miles longer than a leading competitor’s tires. As more fuel efficient vehicles are produced, and as auto manufacturers continue to meet higher fuel economy standards, it is becoming more and more likely that your vehicle will come standard with a low rolling resistance tire.
Are Low Rolling Resistance Tires Worth It?
As more vehicles come standard with low rolling resistance tires, and as low rolling resistance tires become more prevalent with tire makers, the question becomes “Are they really worth it?” For the most part, LRR tires are slightly more expensive than non-LRR tires. This is a result of more technology being put into the tires. The problem with LRR tires is that there is no federal standard or minimum requirement to carry that title. So, when a tire manufacturer claims that it will increase your fuel economy by 4%, they are comparing that figure to their own tires. In fact, a tire manufacturer could claim their tire is LRR, when in reality it could just be an upgraded model of their previous tire. The goal of LRR tires is to help vehicles meet CAFÉ standards; as long as vehicles do that on their own without the help of their tires, there won’t be additional requirements for tires themselves. Without a standard benchmark for these tires, it’s up to the consumer to do their homework when searching for this type of tire.
The other downfall to low rolling resistance tires is they don’t have as good traction, so they may require a greater stopping distance. Like I mentioned earlier, since rolling resistance is defined as the force resisting the motion when a tire rolls on a surface, low rolling resistance tires are designed to have less resistance. The obvious tradeoff is that, while you will get better fuel economy, the tires will have a lower traction rating. This problem is somewhat justified, as the whole reason behind low rolling resistance tires is to decrease the traction with the road. Thankfully, with the future geared towards better fuel economy, most tire manufacturers are trying to offset the lower traction ratings on low rolling resistance tires. While the current state of low rolling resistance tires may not give you the best in traction, I’m confident that this will improve over time. Vehicle manufacturers will have to have the best fuel economy possible, and will count on low rolling resistance tires to help them meet the very high CAFE standards put forth by The Obama Administration.
Tips to Increase Fuel Economy:
Outside of purchasing low rolling resistance tires, there are a few ways you can increase your fuel economy with your current tires. The easiest way to do this is by keeping your tires inflated to the correct air pressure. If your tires’ air pressure is too low, your tires won’t perform as they are designed to. This will result in a big decrease in fuel economy. Another somewhat obvious tip is to not drive so fast! The slower you go the better fuel economy you have, so try to stick to the speed limit and your fuel economy will improve. This tip goes hand in hand with driving at a constant speed. Accelerating rapidly will use up more gas than if you were to slowly accelerate up to speed. Using cruise control will help you maintain a constant speed. And perhaps the most obvious tip is to search for the lowest priced gas station! There are tons of mobile phone apps that are updated in real time and will give you the lowest price of fuel around.
Contact AutoSquad at 855-484-3778, or visit www.AutoSquad.com to see our tire selection and make an appointment online, or ask any questions about low rolling resistance tires. Please note that AutoSquad’s service is currently available in the Washington, DC metro area only.