As a vehicle owner, we are always on the lookout for ways to stretch out our MPG to save a few bucks at the pump. As tire technology improves, one way that owners can improve millage and reduce fuel consumption is to switch to tires with a low rolling resistance (LRR).
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Most of the factors that determine your vehicle’s fuel consumption are out of the owner’s control. Things like vehicle design, aerodynamics, weight, mechanical efficiency, and terrain determine how a vehicle consumes fuel. By practice some driving techniques that are proven to improve MPG, such as easy starts and stops, owners can gain a bit more out of each gallon of fuel.
Many owners are unaware of the role that their tires play in fuel consumption. The rolling resistance of the tires on your vehicle play a major factor in consumption, and with the introduction of low rolling resistance tires to the market, it’s possible to add additional fuel economy to your vehicle.
Without diving into complex, scientific details, rolling resistance of a tire equates to the amount of energy a tire consumes while rolling under a load. This resistance is influenced by the friction between the tire’s tread and the road surface, as well as the amount of energy consumed by the flexing of the tire’s sidewalls as the tire rolls over terrain. According to the Alternative Fuels Data Center, it’s estimated that anywhere from 5 to 15% of passenger vehicle fuel consumption is spent overcoming rolling resistance of tires.
Vehicle manufacturers have begun to move towards equipping new vehicles with low rolling resistance tires in order to help meet the government-mandated fuel economy standards while maintaining the all-around tire performance. The new technology of low rolling resistance tires has led to changes in rubber compounds, sidewall construction, and tread patterns used during manufacturing. Many dated studies will claim that ride comfort, stopping distance, and handling will suffer when using low rolling resistance tires, but as the technology continues to improve, the gap in performance and handling between low rolling resistance tires and a standard tire continues to close.
The current low rolling resistance tires can be expected to improve fuel economy by anywhere from 1 to 4 MPG. Depending on your driving, as well as type of vehicle and the price of fuel in your area, the savings from running low rolling resistance tires on your vehicle can be upwards of $400 in fuel costs over the life of the tire.
As with any tires, proper pressure is the key to longevity of the tire, as well as performance levels. When temperatures begin to drop, it’s important for owners to regularly check the pressure in their low rolling resistance tires to ensure that they are not operating the vehicle with underinflated tires. Driving with tires that are underinflated by 5-7 PSI will increase the rolling resistance by nearly 15%, which can cause any fuel benefits you are expecting from the low rolling resistance tires to be cancelled out.