General Motors has teamed up with researchers at the new National Tire Research Center in Virginia to boost fuel economy by developing new tire technology. GM released a statement last week to say that tire design could improve fuel efficiency by up to 7 percent. Some of the factors that affect the tire’s rolling resistance are variations in tread pattern, construction and material quality.
If a vehicle has a lower rolling resistance, it needs less fuel to move the vehicle forward. Customers will be able to save on gasoline by using tires with lower rolling resistance, as well as more efficient conventional engines and electric powertrains.
GM had contributed $5 million to the National Tire Research Center. The statement said further that automakers and tire manufacturers will be able to simulate real-world emergencies and boost highway safety with the most advanced tire performance machines.
The center owns tire performance test equipment that costs as much as $11.2 million. The equipment, known as the Flat-Trac LTRe, can make a tire run to as fast as 200 mph and offer information on handling, ride, torque and braking capabilities. GM and other auto engineers from the Flat-Trac LTRe could generate data that will be able to predict vehicle performance for low rolling resistance, improved road-handling capability and other criteria.
The Flat-Trac LTRe is essentially a tire testing system that offers exclusive tire testing capabilities, featuring an electric permanent magnet motor, or spindle torque drive. This electric permanent magnet motor offers the high power density and ultra-high performance bandwidth needed to apply driving and braking torque at full roadway speeds, under physical loads of up to 30,000 N in all three force directions.
Frank Della Pia, executive director for the research center, said that the test equipment of the facility is a lot like moving up “from a basic telescope to the Hubble” so there are numerous possibilities that have opened up.
According to a GM spokesperson, the company wants to continue collaborating with the research center for the next 20 years. The spokesperson declined to talk about future models but he did admit that there may be market implementation within two or three years.
Based in Alton, Virginia, the National Tire Research Center is offering a full spectrum of tire testing capabilities that are designed to support the research and development efforts of both car and tire makes the world. Since its test equipment and in-house expertise can’t be easily found anywhere else, the National Tire Research Center is expected to have a significant impact on the future of tire testing as well as virtual vehicle development.