Japanese tyre maker Falken has developed a new road tyre that offers better fuel efficiency as well as a wet weather grip, thanks to advances in both the chemical formulation of the rubber and the tread design. For years, tyre engineers had been struggling to develop a tyre that provides both lower rolling resistance and the highest levels of wet weather grip, since each attribute is usually mutually exclusive.
To finally break the status quo and create a well-balanced tyre, Falken sought alternative ways to decrease the heat or the energy required to deliver the desired grip performance standard for a European premium tyre.
Falken engineers discovered that combining silica with long, modified polymer chains would produce a new rubber compound that effectively reduces excess heat generation and rolling resistance. The result? Falken new tyre, dubbed as ZIEX ZE914, could bring in a 3.8 percent fuel saving compared with a non-optimized tyre.
The strain quality of silica also has an additional effect of increasing the contact area and grip for the same tyre diameter. Engineers enlarged the tyre’s contact area to provide drivers with an additional benefit. Falken’s engineers also decreased the contact pressure, which effectively extends the tyre’s operating life, which cuts the vehicle’s running costs. Falken’s engineers also developed a tread pattern that would result to better wet weather performance. They placed four wide tread grooves in the tyre cap design that allows efficient water deflection and achieve superb hydroplaning resistance.
The engineers also integrated staggered sipes into the first tread block at the shoulder to break up the water film more effectively than conventional tread patterns. The new ZIEX ZE914, like its predecessor ZIEX ZE912, features tread wear indicators to precisely monitor tyre wear. Engineers developed Falken “Special Eyes” indicators that change shape with increasing tyre wear, allowing drivers to determine whether it is already time to rotate the tyres to maximize tyre life. The “Special Eyes” change shape twice: from round to square and ultimately to a smooth surface.