Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that going green is the way of the future, and tires are no exception. You may have heard some tires referred to as “green”, “eco-friendly” or “environmentally friendly”, but how exactly does that work? It’s a combination of factors that affect every aspect of tires, from materials to how they function on your vehicle.
Let’s start at the beginning – with raw materials, like natural rubber and carbon black. Major tire manufacturers have been researching and developing alternatives to natural rubber to lessen their impact on the environment. Bridgestone, for example, has created synthetic rubber using plant-based ingredients, as opposed to petroleum-based rubber. Goodyear, Continental, and Michelin are also all exploring alternative options, including some that use biomass and agricultural waste. Some are even considering soybean oil and Russian dandelion plants as viable options!
Carbon black is also petroleum-based, and it’s what gives tires their color and helps conduct heat away from the tire belts and treads. Certain vegetable oils and fats might be good substitutes for this necessary component of tire making. Some major tire manufacturers may even build entire US- and Europe-based farms to grow these plant-based materials, which will greatly combat the deforestation of rubber trees, as well as lowering their dependency on fossil fuels during production.
Low rolling resistance (LRR) is a common term when discussing eco-friendly tires, but what is it? Rolling resistance is the energy used by a tire while rolling under a load, and often refers to the amount of effort necessary to turn the tire left or right. Making a tire easier to turn and “roll” on the road is called “low rolling resistance”, which improves gas mileage and lowers carbon emissions. Anywhere from 5-15% of your vehicle’s fuel consumption is used to combat rolling resistance (*Alternative Fuels Data Center), so lowering that can have significant effects. Initially LRR tires, though more fuel efficient, lacked in performance areas like quick cornering and braking abilities. As technology advances, these flaws are minimized, and many LRR tires perform almost as well as their counterparts.
Who Should Use LRR Tires?
Any environmentally-conscious consumer could enjoy the benefits of these tires. Certainly, owners with vehicles that fall into this category (hybrids, electric vehicles, etc.) are a huge demographic for this type of tire. It’s important to note that most fuel-efficient, LRR tires are typically considered touring tires rather than high performance (link to that blog once posted?), meaning their focus is on ride comfort and noise reduction, rather than quick cornering and braking. People with sports cars or joy-riders may not have many LRR tire options until manufacturers can totally eliminate the impact that LRR production has on tire performance.
According to a Consumer Reports study in 2016, LRR tires can save users an average of $78/year in fuel. Bear in mind, every driver and vehicle is different, so this amount could vary quite a bit. LRR tires are also good for the environment in other ways than just fuel efficiency. So, are they worth all the hype? The way we see it, LRR tires are not just a trend, but are here to stay. At Wiygul Automotive Clinic, we carry some LRR tire models, and we’d be happy to recommend the right tire for your vehicle and driving preferences. Stop in to any of our 7 convenient locations and our tire experts will perfectly install your new, eco-friendly tires in no time!