PITTSBURGH—By the end of 2016, Bridgestone Americas and PPG Industries Inc. will have a new generation of fuel-efficient truck and bus tires ready for testing under a $1.25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.
The DOE-funded project, which PPG announced in February, focuses on improving the fuel efficiency of truck and bus radial tires using PPG's Agilon performance silica platform, PPG said in a news release.
The goal of the project, according to PPG, is to deliver prototype tires to DOE that help trucks and buses achieve fuel efficiency improvements of 4 to 6 percent while maintaining or improving the tires' tear strength and treadwear.
Research and development on the tires will take place at PPG's facility in Monroeville, Pa., PPG said.
PPG reached out to Bridgestone Americas to be its collaborator on the fuel efficiency project, according to Amy Randall, Bridgestone Americas manager of innovation and technology development. PPG is a longtime global supplier of silica to Bridgestone, she said, and the companies have developed a strong technical relationship.
“We saw the potential and the synergy in the project,” she said. “We expect and hope to develop a state-of-the-art fuel-efficient truck and bus tire.”
Fuel efficiency has long been a major focus of Bridgestone Americas' R&D efforts, according to Randall. The tires being developed in the collaborative project, however, would represent a “Best of Class” for fuel efficiency, she said.
“How we would roll this out is still to be decided,” she said. Bridgestone Americas doesn't have a committed date on when to start marketing the tires, but it would be some time after the research program ends in October 2017, she said.
According to PPG, Agilon performance silicas are more than traditional reinforcing fillers.
“By precipitating silica and silane together and delivering them as a single, finished compounding solution, PPG has created a breakthrough technology that uniquely combines product and process, enabling industrial rubber and tire makers to enhance rubber performance, simplify their manufacturing processes and promote a healthier environment,” PPG said on its Agilon webpage.
Agilon silicas are designed to reduce tire rolling resistance; improve traction and handling in wet, snowy or icy conditions; and extend tread life, according to PPG.
Anup Jain, PPG vice president, specialty coatings and materials, said his company's collaborative project with Bridgestone Americas has the potential to make significant changes in the truck tire industry.
“The DOE funding validates what our preliminary research already has shown—that Agilon performance silica has significant potential as a next-generation filler to help increase truck tire fuel efficiency,” Jain said.
According to PPG estimates, if 25 percent of all tractor-trailers on the road improved their fuel efficiency by 4 percent, they would consume 750 million fewer gallons of diesel fuel annually.
They would save nearly $2 billion per year and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 8 million metric tons, the company said. Agilon silica is part of PPG's global commitment to helping the transportation industry and its suppliers manufacture more sustainable products, Jain said.
“We are dedicated to developing products such as Agilon performance silica that help protect the planet and help customers such as Bridgestone meet the safety, performance and value demands of car and truck owners around the world,” he said.