Stricter fuel standards push tire manufacturers to reduce rolling resistance


It has been five years since the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration adopted a second set of fuel efficiency standards for medium and heavy vehicles.

Despite changing political winds, these next-generation greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards – commonly referred to as “GHG Phase 2” – have remained in place. And they present ongoing challenges from a tire development perspective.

Bill Walmsley, product category manager, line and coach tires, long haul, Michelin North America Inc., calls the tires a “key contribution” to improved regulation. “There are suggested levels of rolling resistance coefficients that vary depending on the class and type of vehicle,” he says.

“The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides a tool called the GEM model, which allows the (truck) OEM to enter the various inputs that contribute to GHGs and then see the end result in terms of carbon dioxide. The key, when it comes to tires, is to be able to provide a tire that not only offers a low coefficient of rolling resistance for an improved contribution “to carbon dioxide reduction, but also meets the needs. of the automaker – “and ultimately, the final fleet that buys the truck.”

“The challenge is to balance the rolling resistance, durability and traction performance triangle,” says Dave Johnston Sr., director, business products and business development, Toyo Tire USA Corp.

“Traditionally, there were trade-offs to be successful in all three areas. Today’s fleets expect a tire to be able to perform in a multitude of environments while providing a solid return on investment.

“It all comes down to tire design,” says Marco Rabe, Continental Tire the Americas LLC’s research and development manager for truck tires in the Americas region. “If we’re aiming for a tire with better fuel economy, then we’re using tread patterns and tread compounds that improve rolling resistance.

“Plus, tire designers always have the option of reducing tread depth to improve rolling resistance. However, this always comes at the expense of removal mileage. This compromise will have to be managed as regulators impose more stringent energy efficiency targets. ”

It all adds up

“Typically, improvement in one area of ​​tire performance – for example, rolling resistance – often requires a compromise in another area, such as tread wear or tire life.” says Matt Schnedler, Senior Product Manager, Bridgestone Americas Inc.

“The challenge then is to use this technology to improve the performance metric influencing the standard, while maintaining or even improving other metrics that customers expect. ”

Rick Phillips, CEO of Keter Tire Inc., explains that his company’s engineers are focused on “multiple areas of development and design” to meet energy efficiency requirements.

“Probably the most critical are the carcass construction, the tread design, the rubber mix and the manufacturing process itself. We consider all of these areas and how they can best work together to achieve the goals of the EPA.

Bob Loeser, Truck Tire Engineer, Kumho Tire USA Inc., says that in addition to focusing on tread compounds and tread modifications, Kumho is “starting to look at other components, such as sidewalls and interior linings ”.

Looking down the road, he says “it will be interesting” to see how the design and performance of electric trucks influences tire design. “GES standards apply to the entire truck, so there is no defined test standard for every component that makes up the vehicle. “

What dealers need to know

What should tire dealers keep in mind when it comes to improved greenhouse gas emission standards and tires designed to meet those requirements?

Bridgestone’s Schnedler says “GHGs are primarily an original equipment issue, as trucks have to meet guidelines when new.

“However, to better maintain their fleets, commercial tire dealers should be aware of low rolling resistance and / or SmartWay approved tires when it is time to replace them. There are several options for replacement tires, but as mentioned earlier, there may be trade-offs to consider in meeting specific customer needs.

“While GHGs may not be high on the minds of all concessionaires, it is important to recognize that the fleets they serve have a strong stake in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. , says Rob Williams, vice president of TBR sales, Hankook Tire America Corp.

“The transportation industry will make reducing these emissions a priority and will continue to create stricter standards, including improved fuel economy.”

“This is a hot topic, so dealers should strive to be as informed as possible,” says Phillips of Keter Tire.

Customer education is “particularly relevant at this time, given the current trend in fuel prices.”

“This will be the standard adopted by users,” says Joaquin Gonzalez Jr., president of Tire Group International, which markets Cosmo brand truck tires.

“It takes time for these standards to become part of the consumer’s ‘demand’. But dealers must be prepared to offer products that meet these requirements.

And don’t forget about marketing. “Dealers should focus on advertising and promoting” these tires, says Abhishek Bisht, assistant vice president, Americas, Apollo Tires.

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