How important are low rolling resistance tires to my Nissan LEAF?

by Ernie Hernandez on September 6, 2010

Bridgestone LRR tire

Are low rolling resistance (LRR) tires worth it?

We just had a reader ask this question, and not knowing the answer, we thought that we would see what we could find. So off we went (via the web) to one of our favorite tire and wheel information sources – The Tire Rack. While The Tire Rack is a retailer, they are also a vast storehouse of information on tires and wheels for most anything on the road today. In business for over thirty years, The Tire Rack brings expertise from real-world testing, racing and one of its best resources – customer surveys of the tires on their vehicles. Real customers, reporting their experiences on various tires. In some cases, accumulated customer mileage tallied over twenty million miles driven. This database provides an outstanding benchmark for determining what might make a good choice for your next tire purchase. But we digress…

Last year, Tire Rack tested five low rolling resistance tires against a sixth low rolling resistance tire used as a benchmark. Also included in the test was a non-LRR tire for comparison. All tests were performed using the 2009 Toyota Prius. The test was comprehensive covering real world driving, instrumented performance testing for such things as braking distance (wet and dry) and cornering (wet and dry). Each tire was also evaluated for its contribution to vehicle mileage, and more subjective considerations such as tire noise and road feel. For details, please read the results of the test yourself. But here is a quick overview:

  • Low rolling resistance tires increase fuel economy
    • In this particular test, the highest rated LRR tire returned 53.8 miles per gallon, while the non-LRR tire returned 50.0 miles per gallon. This is a significant 7.6% improvement. Each person’s experience will differ, but clearly the LRR tire provided an advantage.
  • Not all LRR tires are created equally
    • The fuel economy spread within the LRR tires was also significant. While the best MPG was 53.8 the least returned 51.1. Certainly knowing this ahead of time might influence your choice of tire. Also, some tires performed well in dry conditions, but not very well in wet tests. Your location and weather conditions may be just as important in your selection as potential mileage advantages.

For even more in depth reporting, check out this three part article on LRR tires.

A couple quick notes in closing. We just saw where another report on LRR tires will be coming soon. As the technology continues to improve, you will want to stay abreast of the latest info. Also, from what we have seen in high resolution photos of the LEAF, it will be using an all new design Bridgestone LRR tire, perhaps compounded specifically for the LEAF. Hey, if the GT-R gets its own tire, shouldn’t the LEAF?

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