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New, Safer Eco-Tires Equal Gas Savings

Sky high gas prices mean drivers want to get every drop of firepower out of their gas tanks.  Even drivers of hybrid vehicles look for ways to put the squeeze on their already limited petroleum consumption. All of this is good news for a relatively new technological development in the eco-car market, ‘green tires’.  The tires hit the road several years ago, with promises that they’d reduce gas consumption by as much as 7%.  But the low rolling resistance tires, as they’re officially known, have raised safety concerns because they’ve sacrificed in road traction what they’ve gain in fuel economy. 

The tires save on fuel by reducing contact with the road. Less road contact means the tires skid more easily, especially in cold or wet weather.  Until now, that is.  The chemical company Lanxess says its new design overcomes the safety hurdle with a low resistance tire that provides excellent traction in both cold and wet weather.

The Lanxness tire is expected to gain big traction in Europe, where gas prices are often double what they are in the U.S. and finding new ways to increase MPG is tantamount to discovering the Holy Grail. As of November 2012, the EU has instituted a mandatory tire labeling system with ratings for fuel efficiency and wet weather grip. The system rates tires on a scale of A to G, and the new Lanxess tire is expected get top scores in both categories.  The tire uses neodymium-based performance butadiene rubber (Nd-PBR) to increase traction, while still decreasing gas mileage.  The company also says the tires are much more durable than previous low rolling resistance models, although durability isn’t a factor the new EU rating system takes into account – yet. Marketing gurus predict that eco-tires will capture as much as 80% of the tire market by 2022.

Many people hope that a similar tire rating system for the U.S. is on the near horizon, giving consumers a quick and easy way to gauge fuel efficiency and road safety when purchasing tires.