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Eco-Tires Revisited

November 12th, 2009

Bridgestone EcopiaA few months ago, I wrote about eco-friendly tires, and postulated that the decrease in rolling resistance of such tires may result in slightly less grip.  Well, that was a case of a little knowledge being dangerous.  Reading an article this month (in Automotive Engineering International, of course) about Bridgestone‘s new Ecopia line of tires, it was explained that the decreased rolling resistance comes from a sidewall design that “offers improved carbon dispersion.”  In other words, the sides of the tire are stiffer, and flex less as the tire rotates on the road under the weight of the vehicle.  (Yes, it takes energy to bend the tire sidewall – a stiffer sidewall = less bend, and more energy transferred to the road.)  I surmised incorrectly that grip must suffer.  I was wrong.

But now I have to ask:  Why is this technology reserved only for the ECO tires? Stiffer sidewalls are a good thing from a performance standpoint – that’s one reason higher performance tires typically come in lower profiles.  (It allows the suspension to more precisely do the job for which it was designed.)  Is there any downside to making tires of all performance categories more efficient?

…Of course, until people learn to keep their tire-pressures properly inflated, it’s probably a moot point…

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