Cooper Tire & Rubber Company completed work under a $1.5-million government grant to develop advanced tire technology aimed at increasing vehicle fuel efficiency. The grant, awarded by the US Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, called for Cooper to develop technology for light vehicle tires that delivered a minimum 3% improvement in vehicle fuel efficiency while lowering average tire weight by at least 20%, all without sacrificing performance.
Cooper was successful in developing technologies that exceeded the project’s goals, delivering an average fuel efficiency improvement of 5.5% and weight reduction ranging from 23% to 37% in concept tires.
The grant period began in late 2011 and continued through the end of 2014, with Cooper recently presenting its findings to the DOE. Tire development work under the grant was done at Cooper’s North America and Global Technical Centers, both located in Findlay, Ohio.
Cooper researchers evaluated six technologies individually for contribution to fuel efficiency and/or weight savings:
- Partial replacement of carbon black and/or silica with nano-fiber materials
- Ultra-light weight tire bead bundle
- Ultra-light weight tire belt package
- Ultra-light weight inner liner (barrier film liner)
- Formulation options for ultra-long wearing and low hysteresis tread compound
- New design of low hysteresis, energy efficient tire profile
At the DOE annual Merit Review meeting last June, Cooper reported that it had down-selected to four—lightweight nanofiber, lightweight belt, ultra-long wearing and rolling resistance tread, and low RR profile—to integrate into test tires.
Improving vehicle fuel efficiency by a minimum of 3% was accomplished by developing a product with more than 30% lower rolling resistance. Reducing tire weight by a minimum of 20% required us to make a product that is five to six pounds lighter than the baseline 26-pound tire. All of this was accomplished without any trade-offs in performance or durability.
Our innovative approach was to develop a new energy efficient tire profile and design in combination with an ultra lightweight tire construction. The process utilized innovative materials not typically used in tires today. In all, we developed and evaluated six new technologies as part of the program’s first phase. We also evaluated the holistic impact of putting all of these technologies into a concept tire in the program’s second phase. Combining these advancements allowed us to reach and exceed the grant’s aggressive goals. We are extremely proud of the team’s achievements.—Chuck Yurkovich, Cooper’s Senior Vice President of Global Research and Development
As a result of the grant work, Cooper has already incorporated new tire modeling technology into its development process and is evaluating long wearing and fuel efficient tread compound technology for use in future tires for the replacement and original equipment markets. Other technologies are being further developed for potential commercial applications in the future.