Not that I blame you. I just bought a new car and I have no idea which brand is fitted to it. To be brutally honest, I checked my new ride from top to bottom before the deal was done, but I didn’t spend a single second looking at the tyres. They were round, black and inflated. What more can there possibly be to it?
As it turns out, there are a lot of things to consider when buying new tyres, which makes perfect sense. I’ve been struggling to think of a more important component on a car. I mean, a car with a broken engine can be pushed and taxi drivers do their best every single day to prove that you can run a car without working brakes and/or bodywork. But a car without tyres? It’s not going anywhere.
I recently went to Thailand to attend the launch of a new tyre and was flabbergasted at how much effort went into the designing and testing of what is essentially a piece of rubber. More importantly, it highlighted the differences between the products offered by rubber manufacturers.
The tyre in question is the new Bridgestone Ecopia EP200. It’s a traditional black tyre on a green mission. Sounds easy enough, but consider the effort that goes into designing a tyre that ticks all the right boxes. It has to have a low rolling resistance to improve fuel economy but enough grip to keep braking distances in the wet and dry on par with a traditional tyre.
When you put it that way, it sounds nearly impossible. This is probably why Bridgestone spend an average of two years designing a tyre and testing it at various facilities, including Gerotek in Gauteng, Phakisa in the Free State and the Nürburgring in Germany.
The results speak for themselves. The Ecopia EP200 is on par or better than its predecessor in every single way. The new tyre features Bridgestone’s Nano ProTech technology that increases the density of silica molecules in the tyre’s compound. This reduces heat generation and energy losses while lowering rolling resistance.
In a test conducted at Gerotek, it was found that the Ecopia’s rolling resistance was 78 metres better than that of its main competitor. In a similar test constructed at the launch event, the Ecopia tyres outperformed their competitors every single time. Bridgestone also tested the fuel consumption at Gerotek and found that the Ecopia returned 4.3% lower fuel consumption than its non-Ecopia equivalent. It may not sound like much, but with ever-escalating fuel prices and the imminent arrival of e-toll, the average motorist has to take whatever saving is out there.
The Ecopia offers other advantages as well. The shoulder tread is quite stiff and block-like compared to the rounder profile of a traditional tyre. This improves directional stability, while further reducing rolling resistance.
According to the tyre boffins at Bridgestone, these benefits have been obtained without compromising tread wear or roadholding and the Ecopia EP200 includes numerous advantages which give the driver better control under all driving conditions. One of these is high-stiffness shoulder tread blocks, which have a square profile instead of the rounder one of conventional tyres. This improves directional stability while reducing rolling resistance. It also states that these square-profile shoulders also provide greater resistance against irregular wear.
We were asked to see for ourselves, so I took to the track armed with a Toyota Corolla shod with a set of Ecopia tyres. To be honest, I couldn’t tell the difference between Ecopia and its competitor with regards to roadholding, but I was able to experience the grip levels offered by a green tyre with a low rolling resistance. At no point during the track test did it feel like it was losing grip, even when driving like an absolute idiot. This leads me to believe that the Ecopia does indeed have as much grip as a conventional tyre, as Bridgestone claims.
The Ecopia is aimed at upper B- and C-segment passenger cars like the Ford Fiesta, Toyota Corolla and Volkswagen Golf. The EP200 covers the majority of common tyre sizes for these vehicle segments, from 175/65R14 to 225/50R17.
The tyre is also covered by Bridgestone’s Tyre Damage Guarantee, which means you only have to pay for the tread you’ve already used if a tyre is damaged beyond repair and needs to be replaced.