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GM and partners to begin work in January at National Tire Research Center; seeking improvements in fuel economy

GM engineers and scientists will begin work in January with research partners to accelerate the development of tire technology at the new National Tire Research Center in Halifax County, Va. (Earlier post.)

The facility, to which GM contributed $5 million, uses advanced tire performance machinery that will enable automakers and tire manufacturers to replicate real-world emergency events and improve vehicle highway safety.

By some estimates, tire design can help improve fuel efficiency by up to 7%. A tire’s rolling resistance is determined by variations in tread pattern, construction, material quality and processing techniques.

Flat-Trac LTRe. Click to enlarge.

The center’s $11.2-million tire performance test equipment, known as Flat-Trac LTRe, is unique in its use of electric motor technology and can run a tire up to 200 mph. It provides data on handling, ride, torque, and braking capabilities on various surfaces, including wet road conditions. GM was instrumental in developing the machine’s test specifications.

The Flat-Trac LTRe is capable of replicating all driving maneuvers of a passenger car or light truck on the road. GM and other automotive engineers will be able to use the data collected by the equipment to predict vehicle performance and modify tire characteristics to improve performance for low rolling resistance, better road-holding capability and other criteria.

The center’s facilities also include the Southern Virginia Vehicle Motion (SoVa Motion) Laboratory, strategically located in the heart of the Virginia Motorsports Alley at the Virginia International Raceway. SoVa Motion offers shock and suspension testing, virtual prototyping of vehicle components, and a range of on-vehicle sensing such as wheel force transducers. SovaMotion will take advantage of the Tire Center’s test data to conduct drive and handling simulations that could help reduce time and cost of vehicle program development.



It has struck me that if you limited the maximum speed of a car to say 90 or 100 mph, you could use different (lower rolling resistance) tires.

Perhaps, you could do this voluntarily, the way people fit fatter tires. The Eco versions of the cars could have this.

Having a car that is limited to 100 mph is hardly a mark of shame.


Why do you think a high maximum speed of a tire means it will have higher rolling resistance.

Rolling resistance is nominally inversely related to NVH; Low rolling resistance = high road noise.

This research is, I presume, aimed at reducing the rolling resistance of a tire without an unacceptable increase in the transmission of energy/sound into the suspension; reducing the energy absorption of a tire without increasing the perceived sound transmission.

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