Oiling the wheels of greener transportation

Burning rubber is the last thing a driver wants to do to save fuel. In fact, tyres account for up to 15% of a vehicle’s fuel consumption. An EU-backed project has developed new compounds, designs and treads for tyre manufacturing to slash this “rolling resistance” for the good of the transport sector and the environment.

Many motorists may not be aware of it, but it is not just the engine and other components under the bonnet that affect a vehicle’s fuel efficiency and environmental impact – the wheels underneath do too.

When tyres roll along the road, a certain amount of energy is lost in the form of friction and heat. This ‘parasitic’ energy is known as ‘rolling resistance’ and it uses between 5% and 15% of the fuel consumed by a vehicle. The EU labels tyres according to their fuel-efficiency rating. Those with the lowest rolling resistance are categorised as “A” and can potentially reduce a vehicle’s fuel consumption by as much as 5%.

An EU-funded project is working to take this technology to the next level. “Our research is addressing the greening of surface transport as one of the main challenges of our times,” explains Benoit Duez, a researcher at the Goodyear Innovation Centre Luxembourg, which coordinates the three-year LORRY project. LORRY aims to reduce the carbon footprint of goods vehicles.

It is doing this by developing the concept for an innovative low-rolling resistance tyre and a comprehensive fuel management tool box for fleets. “LORRY studies rolling resistance in its whole environment to optimise truck fuel consumption by correlating it with tyre pressure, load, driving style, road and weather conditions,” says Duez.