General Motors Flat-Trac LTRe
Denis Flierl's picture

GM ‘burns rubber’ to gain fuel-mileage advantage [video]

General Motors is literally burning rubber in order to improve fuel mileage with new technology to produce ultra-fuel-efficient tires.

Automakers are doing everything they can to reduce fuel-mileage in their new cars so they can gain the competitive advantage over the competition, and also meet the new CAFE fuel-mileage standards. They are using everything from acoustic windshields, aluminum hoods to carbon fiber technology. But GM is helping develop technology where the rubber meets the road in order to have the most fuel-efficient lineup of vehicles.

GM is gaining traction by partnering with the new National Tire Research Center in Halifax County, Va. GM and NTRC engineers will begin work in January to accelerate the development of a new tire technology to improve fuel efficiency. GM is totally committed to the project and will invest $5 million in developing the new state of the art tire-performance facility.

Low rolling resistance tires save fuel

Technical estimates say that low rolling resistance tires can help improve fuel efficiency by up to 7 percent. Just like a vehicles wind resistance, a tire creates a resistance on the road and determines the amount of fuel it takes to move the car. A tire’s rolling resistance is determined by variations in tread pattern, construction, material quality and processing techniques.

The new tire technology will work together with more efficient conventional engines, electric powertrains and weight-saving measures in order to help consumers save money at the pump. GM and NTRC have developed a new tire machine called the Flat-Trac LTRe. The new machine can run a tire up to 200 mph and will enable engineers to replicate wet or dry driving conditions of a passenger car or light truck on the road. GM and their partners will 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.

A “transformational leap in tire technology”

While low rolling resistance tires aren’t totally new, the technology is just in its infancy and the new GM facility could advance the technology far beyond where it is today. “This facility’s test equipment is like going from a basic telescope to the Hubble – it opens up a whole new world of possibilities,” said Frank Della Pia, a former GM vehicle dynamics manager who is executive director for the tire research center. “It can test tires in the full range of the performance spectrum. This facility has no peer in the world. It’s going to enable a transformational leap in tire technology.”

Automakers need to squeeze out additional fuel-mileage anywhere they can, and where the rubber meets the road is a place it meets the most resistance. GM hasn’t said when we will see the new fuel-saving tire technology, but we should expect to see it in the next few years.

Go to to watch the video of the Flat-Trac LTRe.

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