The car-buying public has put its collective foot down and demanded fuel-efficient vehicles, and automakers are likely to do anything to answer customer demand. That may include reinventing the wheel, as more automakers look into incorporating low rolling resistance tires into non-hybrid vehicles. The high-pressure rubber can return fuel economy improvements of 1-2 mpg in most instances, giving automakers that use them a leg up on the competition when comparing EPA data. The new four-cylinder 2009 Ford Escape eked out an additional 1 mpg with the new tires, giving the CUV 21 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway. Michelin estimates that low rolling resistance tires can save $300 in fuel costs at $4 per gallon over the life of tire, which is fairly substantial.

There are drawbacks to low-rolling resistance tires, too. They're more expensive than standard rubber, the ride isn't quite as comfortable, and the tires cause longer braking distances. In fact, Consumer Reports gave the Escape a lower rating because it had such poor stop times. The bottom line is that customers are looking for improved economy at all costs. Since low rolling resistance tires improve fuel economy, the cars that have them and achieve superior fuel economy as a result will be more attractive to mpg-conscious buyers.

[Source: Detroit News]