WASHINGTON (April 4)—"Reducing the average rolling resistance of replacement tires by a magnitude of 10 percent is technically and economically feasible," states the executive summary of a long-awaited report by the National Academy of Sciences.
The study, "Tires and Passenger Vehicle Fuel Economy: Informing Consumers, Improving Performance," calls on Congress to authorize the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to gather and report information on how motorists' individual choices of passenger tires can maximize their vehicles' fuel efficiency.
NHTSA should consult with the Environmental Protection Agency and the tire industry on how to gather and report this information, the study said. Lowering replacement tire rolling resistance by 10 percent would save between 1 billion and 2 billion gallons of fuel annually, the equivalent of taking 2 million to 4 million cars and light trucks off the road, it added.
A combination of consumer information, modified tire designs and development of new technologies to further reduce tire rolling resistance would achieve the desired fuel efficiency goals, the study said. It added, however, that all these things would be ineffective without vigilance in proper tire inflation and maintenance.
Fuel savings from reduced average rolling resistance of replacement tires should exceed higher tire purchase prices as long as tires don't wear out faster as a consequence, the study said. While reduced rolling resistance may affect traction, it added, it probably won't affect safety in any detectable way.
California passed a replacement tire fuel efficiency rating requirement two years ago, and similar bills have been introduced in several other states as well as in the U.S. Congress. Currently the California Energy Commission is performing its own feasibility study on rating replacement tires for rolling resistance.