You drive carefully to avoid wasting gas. You keep the trunk empty and the tires fully inflated, too. All are good habits, but you could be missing an energy-saving trick: Have you thought about getting green tires? Car dealerships or tire specialists — find them at DexKnows — will gladly explain what these are, but here’s a brief primer.
“Green” tires, more accurately known as “low-rolling-resistance” tires, will give you better gas mileage. It’s not a startling improvement, although it adds up over the course of a year. And every cent helps, right? Curious about how a tire can save you energy? Let’s start by explaining rolling resistance.
Low rolling resistance
A good tire does two jobs. It grips the road and absorbs some of the impacts from bumps and potholes that would otherwise get through to the interior. This cushioning is achieved by the tire’s sidewalls flexing, almost like a rubber spring. A glance at your tires will reveal that, while the sidewalls are straight at the top, they curve at the bottom. It’s hardly surprising because each tire is carrying a quarter of the weight of your car or truck! As they roll, the sidewalls are continually bending and straightening.
Tires are pretty rigid, so this flexing takes some energy to do. Grip also takes some energy: a tire with a sticky rubber almost bonds to the road like a Post-It note to a desktop. So as the tire rotates, it’s constantly pulling away from the surface. Together, these factors create what’s called “rolling resistance.” A little is a good thing, and the more your tires “stick,” the more engine power has to be used to overcome it.
Pros and cons of “green” tires
Several manufacturers have brought out tires that take less energy to turn. Three of the leading brands are the Ecopia from Bridgestone, the Energy Saver A/S from Michelin, and Goodyear’s Assurance Fuel Max. All are made from specially formulated rubber compounds that use less energy as they roll.
How much will you save? That depends on your driving style and how many miles you get from your tires as well as the price of gas, but both Bridgestone and Michelin project savings of up to $400 over the life of their tires. That may not be enough to make it worth changing partly worn tires, but when they need replacing it might be something to consider.
Sometimes saving money costs money upfront, but that’s not the case with these tires. If you check around the major tire retailers, you’ll find that they are priced comparably to other good-quality tires.
So are there any downsides? Independent tire retailer Tire Rack tested three low-rolling-resistance tires early in 2011, comparing them to a capable regular tire. Overall, they found little difference, although they did comment that the more fuel-efficient tires tended to offer slightly less wet grip.
Are “green” tires right for you?
If your driving style is to “press on,” you’re probably more concerned about grip than gas mileage, in which case the answer is no. But if you like to stretch your gas dollars as far as possible, use the DexKnows site to find your local tire retailers and find out what “green” tires they have to offer.