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Bridgestone to develop new truck tire technologies

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Bridgestone technology research at work. | © Bridgestone

Bridgestone to develop new truck tire technologies

Bridgestone has embarked on an ambitious five-year research and development program in a bid to revolutionize the tractor trailer tire industry.

The company has partnered with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) on the Cummins-Peterbilt SuperTruck II Program, which aims to deliver up to a six percent improvement in fuel efficiency — potentially saving nearly three billion gallons of diesel per year.

How will the program work?

The DOE will match the Bridgestone investment dollar-for-dollar, to create prototype tires in all three axle positions (steer, drive and trailer). The program will incorporate six different tire technologies, including tire sizing, curing, casing construction, casing compounds, tread patterns and tread compounding.

The prototype tires are expected to deliver up to a six percent improvement in fuel efficiency through a 30 percent decrease in rolling resistance compared to a 2009 baseline. In terms of the environmental impact of the more than 3.5 million heavy-duty Class 8 long-haul tractor trailer trucks on the nation’s roads, they could save 30 million metric tons of annual CO2 emissions.

Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations vice president of product development, Steve Charles, said over the next year a team of engineers, chemists and modeling experts would begin the development work for the project.

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“We believe that we already have certain technologies in the toolbox that will get us between half and two-thirds of the way there,” he said. “The other half or one-third we call ‘stretch’ and that’s what puts us in the research realm. The nice thing about this program is that it allows us to almost have a clean sheet of paper; it doesn’t tie our hands – it allows us to approach new concepts, new ideas, and new innovations.”

Benefits to consumers

Charles said the rewards of the program would not just benefit the industry and the environment, but Bridgestone would use any advancements uncovered on its Ecopia line to benefit consumers.

“Historically we are about continuous improvement or incremental improvements to our products; this one allows us to really think outside the box and whatever we learn from that activity we can start to apply immediately to our newer products that we are going to be introducing over the next two or three years,” he said.

“Additionally, this project is closely aligned with our internal goal to produce best in class products that contribute to reducing global CO2 emissions by 50 percent or greater by the year 2050. We are honored to be a part of the SuperTruck II program, working together with our partners to drive the industry forward and ensure a sustainable environment for current and future generations.”

The SuperTruck II program was created by the DOE to research, develop and demonstrate technologies meant to improve heavy-truck freight efficiency by more than 100 percent. It has an emphasis on technology, cost-effectiveness and performance. Its predecessor, the SuperTruck program launched in 2010, has already impacted the efficiency of current and new-launch products of participating companies. SuperTruck II will continue to develop advanced efficiency technologies that are not currently available in the market.

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