GirlDriver, USA

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Saturday, August 27, 2011

New Technology For Keeping Tires Inflated On Its Way

So many people don't know how much fuel economy they lose from under-inflated tires. Seriously, how many friends do you have who check their tires religiously?

But the estimates for a decrease in fuel economy run from 2.5 percent to 3.3 percent per mile for underinflated tires. A vehicle that gets 40 miles per gallon would get less than 39 miles per gallon at 3.3 percent. That translates to about 12 cents per gallon at today's prices.

But when you stop for gas, do you really feel like checking the PSI in your tires? Do you even think of it? Do you have time? It's one of those things that's so easy to put off.

Goodyear has a new technology under development that could help to make underinflated tires a thing of the past. It's working on something called Air Maintenance Technology (AMT). Miniaturized pumps, that will keep tires inflated to their correct PSI at all times, will be fully contained within the tires eliminating the need for external pumps and electronics. I once asked a GM engineer to name the worst technology in recent years and without hesitation she said, "the tire pressure monitoring system."

So presumably with Goodyear's AMT system, all those annoying warnings about your tire pressure that are both scary and inaccurate would go away. That alone is good news. But if we calculate the elimination of "low" tires relative to fuel savings, this could have a substantial impact on CO2.

No doubt these tires will be expensive, but would there be a case--like the argument that diesel eventually pays for the frontloaded cost by saving fuel and lasting longer--that you will make up the difference in fuel cost savings? We won't know until the technology is in the market.

Goodyear is speeding up its research in light of new government mandates for higher fuel economy. They don't say when the technology will be available. But the U.S. Department of Energy and the government of Luxembourg have given Goodyear grants to pursue the development.

Goodyear is also working, along with many other tire companies, on developing lower rolling resistance tires.

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