Continental Tyres have joined the debate concerning the use of low-rolling resistance tyres. The debate revolves around the trade-off between the environmental advantages of low-rolling resistance and the safety concern, that the tyres are less efficient in wet braking conditions. Recently, Michelin claimed that they had overcome the problem with their new generation of Energy Saver tyres. According to Michelin their research team has overcome the problem in designing a tyre that has all the benefits of low-rolling resistance without the concomitant drawback of loss of braking efficiency in the wet.
Continental has joined the debate by stressing that safety must remain the highest priority. The company’s head of passenger car tyre development, Dr Burkhard Wies, has pointed to the dangers of European legislation focusing on low-rolling resistance at the expense of road safety. Wies stressed that while Continental’s tyres are extremely efficient in terms of fuel consumption, the company’s policy is that this cannot be obtained at the expense of safety.
In fact, in recent tests run by Tyres & Accessories magazine, the new Michelin low-rolling resistance tyres were shown to require a longer stopping distance than a set of new Continental tyres. In the test, under wet conditions, the new Continentals clocked up a stopping distance of 42 metres, while the Michelins needed 51 metres to brake to a standstill from a speed of 80km/hr.
It seems likely that this debate will run and run, but Continental are right to stress the importance of the safety element, and it is to be hoped that the European legislators will be equally cautious before imposing any dictates on the fuel consumption implications of tyres.