DEARBORN – Even before gasoline prices topped U.S. $4 per gallon, Ford Motor Company's attention to delivering more fuel efficient solutions for drivers was turning to tires. Specifically the development of specially engineered, low-rolling-resistance tires designed to further improve the fuel economy of its cars and crossovers.
All four of Ford’s industry-leading 40-plus-mpg cars – Fiesta SFE, Focus SFE, Fusion Hybrid and Lincoln MKZ Hybrid – come fitted with these special, fuel-saving tires. In addition, the 2011 Ford Taurus, 2011 Ford Edge, 2011 Ford Fusion and 2011 Ford Explorer have tires with enhanced technology that helps improve fuel economy.
But more is to come. “Tire technology, pressures and wear can make a big difference to a vehicle's fuel economy, so Ford is working closely with leading tire companies to optimize performance with low-rolling-resistance tires,” said David Rohweder, global chief engineer for Tire and Wheel Engineering.
Rolling resistance, a measure of the force required for the tire to travel down the road, is a key attribute in improving fuel economy. A 10 percent improvement in rolling resistance leads to a fuel economy improvement of as much as 2 percent, according to Ford's tire experts.
Ford's tire team, a dedicated group of scientists studying the chemistry of tires, is also researching materials found in other products like athletic shoes to see if there is potential for automotive application. The team is working with tire suppliers and manufacturers to evaluate these materials and ultimately to bring improved tires to market faster.
“Ford is leading the drive for innovation in fuel economy, and one mechanism to do that is through our research program on advanced tire technologies,” said Dr. Cynthia Flanigan, group leader for materials research. “Our goal is to anticipate, innovate and incorporate technologies and materials to make Ford a leader in fuel economy and to help deliver superior low-rolling-resistance tires to customers faster than anyone else.”
Building vehicles that do not compromise performance for efficiency is important to Ford. The 2011 Ford Mustang coupe, for example, is the first car to achieve a combination of 305 horsepower and 31 mpg. To deliver on that no-compromise promise, each component – like tires – is optimized for performance and efficiency.
“Ford develops tires with its suppliers to meet our performance targets in terms of grip levels, ride, noise and other attributes that today's customers expect and demand,” Rohweder said. “We’re pushing the envelope of a well-balanced tire, one that has optimum grip in all conditions, is quiet, gets good wear and has low rolling resistance.”
Ford Motor Company is committed to delivering vehicles with the best or among the best fuel economy with every new product brought to market – without sacrificing performance, capability or driving fun.
Optimal tire pressures can also have a beneficial effect on fuel economy, which is why all Ford and Lincoln vehicles are available with tire pressure monitoring systems that alert the driver when pressure falls below a set level. Under-inflated tires can be a safety hazard in addition to lowering fuel economy.