Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Black is the New Green: Bridgestone Launches New Generation Ecopia Tires

Photos by Ulysses Ang
BANGKOK, THAILAND—Today, every carmaker has weighed in on technology which aims to make their automobiles greener. Almost every aspect of a vehicle—from its aerodynamics to its engine, transmission, and even suspension have all been meticulously engineered to extract a couple more extra kilometers out of every drop of fuel. Now, one of the most important, yet neglected parts in a vehicle, the tires, is getting a “green” makeover courtesy of the new-generation Ecopia tires from Bridgestone.

Developed originally for electric vehicle applications, the Ecopia tire has become Bridgestone’s “eco activity” brand, joining the tire maker’s storied line-up that consists of the Blizzak, Dueler, Turanza, and Potenza; since then, Ecopia has sold more than 3 million units. In 2010, the first region-exclusive Ecopia tire, the EP100A debuted, and now, the successors: the EP150, EP200, and EP850 hope to carry on that leadership.

Aimed not only at individuals who make environmentally-conscious decisions, but at regular consumers as well, the new line of Ecopia tires has three basic design elements: lower rolling resistance, better/higher wet braking performance, and longer wear life. In turn, these basic elements form the very foundation on which the design and engineering of this new line of Ecopia tires stand on.

The EP150, suitable for use in small and medium-size passenger cars, is the Ecopia line’s OE-REP or Original Equipment Replacement that offers improved rolling resistance, wear life, and exceptional wet braking performance. Developed for vehicles such as the upcoming Toyota Vios and Corolla Altis, the EP150 features a new tread design incorporating rib-linked blocks for uniform ground contact when braking, an optimized 3D block shape that minimizes block surface contact lift-off, and weight optimization for improved rolling resistance. Compared to Bridgestone’s standard tire, the Ecopia EP150 offers 23.5 percent better rolling resistance translating to a 2.5 percent better fuel economy while slightly improving wear life, tire noise, wet braking, and ride comfort. The EP150 is available in sizes ranging from 12 to 16 inches.

The EP200 is the Ecopia line’s flagship, designed primarily for medium-sized passenger cars. This is, technologically, the most advanced among the new-generation Ecopia series, in that it offers one of the highest levels of low rolling resistance among any tire designed for the Asia-Pacific region. In addition, it features several design elements which improves driving stability. Developed with the help of “Nano Pro-Tech” technology, the EP200 has been constructed at the molecular level to inhibit heat generation in the tire compound itself. In addition, the asymmetrical tire pattern features a high-stiffness shoulder block for improved driving stability and wear life, and wide straight grooves for reduced risk of hydroplaning (GUTT II Simulation Straight Groves) on the inner side of the tire. On the outer side, the EP200 has a leaf block design with a reversed Z-block for additional block stiffness and ground contact as well as high-angle lug grooves that inhibit block deformation. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the new EP200 is its “asymmetrical ECO shape” which means the inner side and outer side walls are shaped differently to deliver better straight-line stability while minimizing the effects of random forces caused by uneven or undulating roads. Compared to a conventional tire, the EP200 delivers 47.2 percent better rolling resistance that equates up to 8.1 percent better fuel efficiency. The EP200 can also break one meter shorter than the Turanza AR10 and 2.7 meters better than the Ecopia EP100A at 80 km/h. Sizes for the EP200 range from 13 inches all the way to 18 inches.

The Ecopia EP200’s merits were put to the test at the Bridgestone Proving Ground in Wangnoi Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, Thailand where it was subject to a head-to-head comparison test using identical Toyota Corolla Altis models. The exercises consisted of a wet slalom and skid pad course. Instantly, there was a positive difference in the EP200 compared to the Turanza AR10. The steering feedback felt better, and there was better handling, enabling participants to toss the car around with much more speed. And the braking performance also felt much more stable even as the torrential monsoon rains fell on the tarmac. The rains were so hard that the driving program had to be cut short, though not before merits of the EP200 were made known.

The last new Ecopia tire unveiled is the EP850, the first-ever Ecopia tire meant for sport utility (SUV) and crossover (CUV) vehicle application. Meant as an alternative to the Dueler H/L line (meaning this is purely an on-road tire), the EP850 features improved eco performance as well as riding comfort. The EP850 features the same 3D tread grooves, rib-linked blocks, and high-angle lug blocks in the EP150 while adding short and narrow slots to greatly reduce tread pattern noise. Thanks to these design changes, the EP850 features improves in  every aspect imaginable from wet weather braking/handling, dry weather braking/handling to comfort, wear life, and of course, rolling resistance compared to the Dueler H/L. By improving its rolling resistance by some 20 percent, the EP850 returns up to 3.9 percent better fuel efficiency. In order to cater to a wide variety of SUV and CUV customers, the EP850 features sizes from as small as 15 inches to as large as 19 inches.

As the largest tire manufacturer in the world, Bridgestone has seen to it that it also takes a leadership role in caring and protecting for the environment. In fact, Bridgestone believes in the ethos of “One Team, One Planet” where the company has taken unique approach in incorporating every aspect of its business in order to let future generations “live with a peace of mind”. The new range of Ecopia tires is one testament to that fact. In fact, Bridgestone is working closely with several car companies including Toyota, Mitsubishi, Ford, and Hyundai to offer the Ecopia as OE or Original Equipment fitment to their cars. But before then, the new Ecopia line is rolling out to dealers as early as this month. Bridgestone’s Philippine distributor, Philippine Allied Enterprises Corporation (PAEC) says the new generation Ecopia tires will be available in the next few months.

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