Best of What’s New for Your Car: Fuel-Saving Tires

Readers of the December issue of Popular Science may be surprised to see that a fuel-efficient tire made the magazine’s list of the 100 best innovations of 2009. While the technology is not new, there are new product offerings entering the replacement tire market.  Recent tests show that these tires live up to their claims of consuming less fuel while maintaining good traction.

Tire Rack, an on-line retailer, recently published results of on-road fuel economy and traction tests for six tires available today that manufacturers assert save fuel. Tire Rack summarized their results by saying “while today's newest low rolling resistance tires are designed to be lean and green, this test has shown many of them can enhance vehicle fuel economy without sacrificing traction.” Tire Rack tested new tires from Bridgestone, Goodyear, Michelin, and Yokohama fitted on the Toyota Prius and found that some models could boost fuel economy by over 4 percent compared to a Prius running on the tires that come standard with the car (Goodyear Integrity). Over the typical lifetime of replacement tires, a 4 percent jump in mpg could save over $200 in fuel costs (assuming just $2.50 per gallon gasoline).

The more fuel-efficient tires tested by Tire Rack demonstrated good traction too. In relation to the baseline tire, the fuel-sippers were superior in terms of wet stopping distance and on par with dry stopping distance. The results were similar for cornering.

So how do you choose a fuel-efficient tire for your car? Well, a good start would be to check out the Tire Rack tests results because the tested tire models fit many popular car models. Understandably, however, consumers need information that covers more of the replacement market. As I’ve discussed previously, a national tire efficiency rating system is in the works and it will be applicable to all replacement tires. The Department of Transportation is due to release its final regulations for tire manufacturers this month. Armed with efficiency ratings, consumers can easily choose safe tires that will save them money at the gas pump.