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Are “wooden” tires on the way?

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As consumer demand for cheaper, more fuel-efficient tires continues to grow, researchers are exploring some pretty interesting opportunities to revolutionize the way tires are constructed. Wood researchers, that’s right – wood researchers – at Oregon State University have stumbled upon a potential material that could be used as a reinforcement filler inside tires. The microcrystalline cellulose they are testing could be used to manufacture inexpensive energy-efficient tires that also offer better performance, higher heat resistance, and retained tensile strength.

Right now, most tires use carbon black as a filler, which is made from oil and silica. These materials are becoming increasingly expensive, and they are also dense and therefore detrimental to the fuel-efficiency of the tire. Microcrystalline cellulose, on the other hand, can be produced rather inexpensively and does not detract from mileage like carbon black does. By replacing 12% of the silica in carbon black with cellulose fibers, OSU researchers were able to achieve promising results that suggest it’s time to change the way passenger tires are reinforced. Plant fibers are already widely used to reinforce other rubber products such as hoses, insulation, and automotive belts.

Researchers are optimistic about the implications of their ongoing research, though they say more testing is needed before the technology becomes widespread.

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Filed under: Eco-friendly Tires, Tire News, , ,

Toyo Proxes A20 chosen as OE tire on 2010 Toyota Prius V

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The Toyo Proxes A20 is renowned for its low rolling resistance, wet and dry braking performance, stellar handling, and the quiet, comfortable ride it provides. The tire is already a top seller – but it’s about to get a whole lot more popular. Toyo Tire Holdings of America has announced that their Proxes A20 has been officially slated as the original equipment tire for the newest generation of the Toyota Prius, the Prius V. The Prius V eclipses the fuel economy of its predecesors with an impressive EPA-estimated 50mpg on average.

The new generation also features a 24HP boost for better performance and quicker acceleration. The revitalized exterior and expanded interior rest on a set of four 215/45R17 87V Toyo Proxes A20s, which are specially engineered to minimize the amount of friction between the tread and road surface. Less friction means the car uses less fuel to overcome resistance, resulting in improved gas mileage. Exact improvements are difficult to calculate, but the lower rolling resistance generated by the Proxes A20 certainly won’t hurt the Prius’ stellar fuel economy ratings.

Filed under: Eco-friendly Tires, Low Rolling Resistance Tires, Original Equipment Tires, Toyo Tires, , , ,

Does rolling resistance really matter?

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With fuel prices on the rise again and  consumer demand for eco-friendly products higher than ever, many motorists have their sights set on low rolling resistance tires. These tires, which minimize the friction (and therefore energy lost) between the tread and the road, promise better gas mileage and less oil consumption. Many swear by low rolling resistance tires, but many are also starting to ask questions about just how effective they are, as well as how uniform and accurate current rolling resistance measurment tests are.

Major tire manufacturers such as Goodyear have begun to heavily market their eco-friendly tires as a guaranteed way to generate improved fuel economy. The Goodyear Assurance Fuel Max tires promise a 4% improvement. But can drivers really expect this improvement to be standard regardless of other circumstances and conditions? The short answer is that while low rolling resistance tires can improve fuel economy, there are dozens of factors which affect the amount of rolling resistance a tire generates. That means it’s very difficult for a manufacturer, or even a third party like the NHTSA, to estimate a tires rolling resistance. Factors like vehicle weight, its aerodynamic design, the condition of the road surface, tire inflation, and wheel alignment can all affect a tire’s rolling resistance. In light of this, it’s important to understand that any improvements promised by manufacturers should be taken as ballpark figures, not laws etched in stone. This also means that regulating agencies must be careful not to make rolling resistance standards cost-prohibitive to the manufacturer.

The bottom line? Low rolling resistance tires will save you fuel and money in many cases. The exact percentage is subject to debate and vulnerable to influence from many other factors. If you want to do everything you can to improve your fuel economy, these tires are the way to go. But if you’re purchasing them because the manufacturer or the NHTSA or anybody else promises an x.x% improvement, understand that you may not see the same results that these organizations achieved in controlled laboratory conditions.

Filed under: Eco-friendly Tires, Low Rolling Resistance Tires, , ,

Bridgestone-Firestone recalls 127,000+ tires

Bridgestone is recalling 127,000 faulty Firestone FR380 units.

Bridgestone is recalling 127,000 faulty Firestone FR380 units.

Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations has announced a recall of more than 127,000 Firestone tires. Specifically, the recall affects Firestone FR380 tires manufactured between September 9, 2009 and July 2, 2008. Nine years ago Bridgestone infamously recalled 6.55 million tires after multiple tread seperation incidents that often resulted in deaths. With such a highly-scrutinized safety record, BATO was quick to recall this latest batch of Firestone radials after NHTSA officials concluded that the tireswere produced with insufficient tread base gauge.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration determined that with continued use, the affected units could suffer groove tracking from excessive vibration. Groove cracking could then worsen until the tread distorted and eventually seperated, resulting in loss of vehicle control.

Bridgestone plans to notify the owners of affected vehicles and replace the tires free of charge. In addition, the company has committed to covering the costs of mounting and balancing the new units. Owners of Firestone FR380 tires who feel they might be affected by the recall should contact the company immediately. BATO can be reached at 1-800-465-1904 or by visiting www.firestonetire.com. It is important to address this issue and swap your radials as soon as possible if your vehicle is affected by this consumer recall.

Filed under: Tire News, Tire Recalls, , , , ,