Ford Improves Fuel Economy--Through the Tires

By Ford Social Member

Guess whose tire team is made up of scientists who study the chemistry of rubber and who are researching materials found in other products, such as athletic shoes, to see if that could translate to automotive tires? That’s right, it's Ford. Because even before we lived in a world full of heinous fuel prices, Ford was already looking to tires as a way to improve fuel economy, which has resulted in the development of specially engineered low-rolling-resistance tires.

Now, rolling resistance is one of those phrases that gets thrown around when the topic of fuel economy comes up, but what does it actually mean? Well, it’s the measure of the force required for the tire to travel down the road; tire tread is the main contributor to rolling resistance. The three key attributes to any road tire tread are traction or grip, wear and rolling resistance. Therefore, the challenge with building a better tire is that often improving one attribute may compromise another, such as a tire with better grip may have a higher rolling resistance and, therefore, energy consumption.

Ford has established a unique cross-functional team whose mission is to develop innovative new tires that improve safety, boost fuel economy and enhance vehicle handling. Located at the Ford Research and Innovation Center in Dearborn, Michigan, they work closely with Ford Chassis Engineering and Vehicle Engineering as well as leading tire companies to test new compounds, new tread designs and other innovations. “We are developing our own in-house expertise on tire materials and compounds,” said Dr. Cynthia Flanigan, group leader for materials research. “And through our research, we want to be the catalyst, working with chemical and rubber suppliers as well as tire manufacturers, to pull new technologies and solutions through the industry.” Current research is focused on the tread cap – literally where the rubber meets the road.

All four Ford industry-leading 40-plus-mpg cars – Fiesta SFE, Focus SFE, Fusion Hybrid and Lincoln MKZ Hybrid – come fitted with special fuel-saving tires. In addition, the 2011 models of the Taurus, Edge, Fusion and Explorer have tires with enhanced technology that helps improve fuel economy. The C-MAX Energi, C-MAX Hybrid and Focus Electric will be the next three vehicles to have the low-resistance tires. A 10 percent improvement in rolling resistance leads to a fuel-economy improvement of as much as 2 percent, according to the Ford tire experts. When it comes to a performance car like the Mustang, fuel efficiency still matters. The 2011 coupe is the first car to achieve a combination of 305 horsepower and 31 mpg.

Ford has also developed technologies for soy-based seats, and this team is applying these concepts to tires and other rubber products. The research team has already developed patent-pending technologies for EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer, used in weather stripping) rubber using bio-oils. And the research into the other rubber parts could even provide new solutions for tires. “Rubber is used throughout cars – weather strips, gaskets, interior trim, underbody shields, floor mats – so our research could benefit those as well,” Cynthia said.
John B 09/13/2012
I have an early build 2009 Flex built in Aug 2008. Came with Goodyear Comfort Tread Tires. Good. Now with 104,000 miles I discovered Pirelli Scorpion Verde tires. 235/60/18 107V XL. Fantastic all season tire. Sticks like glue on wet and icy roads. Quiet and smooth.
Bill 09/18/2011
I hated the tires that came with my 2009 Ford Flex. I was continually getting flat tires and I was not impressed with the quality. I now have Bridgestone tires (all season and winter) and I couldn't be happier with them. I'll never buy a vehicle again with Hankook tires on it as long as I live. Ford is well advised to make sure this isn't the case the next time I buy a vehicle, or an equivalent credit can be applied so I can get proper tires. This article would make sense if it weren't for the tire choices that were made on the vehicle I bought.
Jamie At Ford 07/07/2011
Hey Cindy,
So I can research the issue you mentioned with your 2011 Edge, could you PM me your VIN, dealer name, and approximate mileage? Thank you for bringing this to my attention and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Ford Customer Service Division
Victor Robles 07/06/2011
How about better parts
Dennis Boyd 07/06/2011
Elliot, we put studs in our BFG's... Yes, winter tires are great on ice but given only in the early winter/late spring do we get down to glare ice, I'll take my sure stopping T/A's with studs any day, hands down. I like to be in control of my truck and relying on tires that aren't meant for the conditions...well... the BFG's are nice and soft plus with the studs... best of both worlds. Either way... it's sad to see a company relying on a tire choice to bring fuel economy down, esp. when we all don't live in conditions where the city tires thrive :(
James Hannah 07/06/2011
I keep hearing about using dry nitrogen in tires instead of air. This is supposed to maintain pressure better when the tires heat up, thus maintaining constant ground pressure and rolling resisitance. Is there any truth to this?
Mattheu Kok 07/06/2011
If tires did that, they would be illegal :s remember Firestone?
Bryan Mazur 07/06/2011
The standard tires that came on my 2010 f-150 xl reg cab 2wd are horrible one popped just driving down the road they need to put better ones on their trucks!
Peter Davido 07/06/2011
Tires are a small part of fuel economy. Ford needs to focus on technology. A perfect exsample is the fiesta and v6 mustang those cars have greay fuel economy. And there both are aero dynamic
Cindy Busciglio DeSota 07/06/2011
The tires on my '11 Edge contribute to rough ride and terrible road noise. Apparently you're aware of it because the salesmen and mechanics are aware that it's the tires, not a mechanical issue.
Brian Schoenrock 07/06/2011
Get the focus st here! And a little less twisty of a frame on the super duty.....I can reshape 2 cross members to fit in the design and be stronger then u got it
Fernando Machuca 07/06/2011
aguante ford LPM
Karl Alan Hausler 07/06/2011
and make the Ford GT a four seater and allow the supercharged v8 alone as an option.
Bruceene Newberg 07/06/2011
bring back the Ford unicycle, with a basket.
Karl Alan Hausler 07/06/2011
with v8s
Karl Alan Hausler 07/06/2011
also bring back the lincoln town car and ford crown vic in both sedan and 3 row wagon versions
Sharon Anderson 07/06/2011
Yes bring back the Crown Vic.. dont have much good to say about their other cars or trucks right now..Espicially their version of a VAN.. The Windstar is the worst. Recall after recall and anything that happens while it has to sit for months FORD... WILL NOT PAY FOR... Sure Saftey if First @ Ford ..BS
Kyle MacDermaid 07/06/2011
Why not Direzza Star Specs?
Elliot Kroon Groeneveld 07/06/2011
Yes but at what cost in wet braking ability. You can have the hardest best tires for Fuel Economy but they'll do terrible in the rain or snow. I'd rather buy more fuel and not rear end someone.
Mitchell Curtis 07/06/2011
The mich pilot are a really good tire but why put on kumho's and contentials? They are complete junk and are in need of replacement by 45,000 clicks if that. Why not put better tires on
Timothy Garnenez Jr 07/06/2011
What he said (dennis boyd)
Dennis Boyd 07/06/2011
Now given our shoddy All-Terain tires on our trucks (appearantly good in the southern states) are better on gas due to their lack of traction, how is Ford going to deal with areas of the continent where we rely on mud/snow clearing treads? Yes, we do drive in over a foot of snow for roughly 6 mths of the year, yes we do spend a LOT of our time off pavement (simple economics, there is very little paved roads in the area)... so we rely on aftermarket tires as soon as the vehicle comes off the lot (BFG T/A's rock!)? Tires to save fuel economy for the city folk I get... but really... to put slippery sliders on from the factory... come on Ford... :(
Damon Swee'hart Smith 07/06/2011
Only until the government increase fuel prices again, why do they always hammer us with the things we enjoy :(
Cory Castaldo 07/06/2011
Try makin the Explorer rear/wd again like it should be & bring back the Crown Vic while ur at it!
Ford Improves Fuel Economy…Through the Tires
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