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Low-resistance tires can save drivers money, researcher says

Posted by: Tim Harlow Updated: January 20, 2014 - 12:53 PM

A University of Michigan researcher has found a way for drivers to save up to $150 a year even if they don't change their driving habits.

A change to low-resistance tires will do the trick, says Michael Sivak of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.

"Tire with low rolling resistance roll easier and, therefore, get better mileage than tires with high rolling resistance," he said.

He took a cross-section of 63 new same-sized tire models that were obtained by Consumer Reports to study rolling resistance, or more simply to find out how much fuel it takes to push a tire down the highway.  Sivak collected rolling resistance measurements for each tire at the same load and inflation pressure to calculate the fuel consumed by an average driver. He found that the lower the rolling resistance the more fuel drivers would save.

As much as 15 percent of fuel used by a typical car may be used to overcome rolling resistance. The U.S. Transportation Research Board estimates that a 10 percent increase in tire rolling resistance decreases fuel efficiency in a vehicle by 1.5 percent. And a 2003 study by the California Energy Commission found that adoption of low-rolling resistance tires could save 1.5 to 4.5 percent of all gasoline consumption.

Sivak's study, however, is the first comprehensive evaluation of how much fuel a driver can save when using tires with low-rolling resistance.

"At the average 2013 price of regular gasoline, the obtained fuel-consumption results in a $147 difference in the annual cost of gasoline per light-duty vehicle," he said.

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