March 5, 2009
If you’ve ever bought tires, you know what a daunting undertaking it can be. It’s enough to make you trade in your driver’s license for a bus pass. The good news is you’re not alone. After all, 80% of vehicles on the road are running on replacement tires. Each year, 200 million of them are sold in the U.S. alone.
The sad fact is most of us pay little attention to our tires until we have a flat or it’s time for new ones. But tires are, in fact, remarkably sophisticated and far more “high-tech” than most of us imagine. And for some years now automakers and tire manufacturers have been leveraging that technology to make tires more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly.
Development of these low-rolling-resistance (LRR) tires began in the 1990s, once automakers had gone after much of the low-hanging fruit (e.g., vehicle weight, engine efficiency, and aerodynamics) in the fuel economy game. Compared to tires produced in 1975, today’s tires have as much as 50% less rolling resistance, and some reports suggest a similar reduction over the next four or five years.