Choosing Low Rolling Resistance Tires

It’s common knowledge that keeping your tires properly inflated is a simple yet essential step toward good fuel efficiency. But figuring out what high-efficiency tire to buy in the first place is anything but straightforward. Slapping on a good pair of low rolling resistance tires can increase fuel economy by 1 to 2.5 mpg. But which ones?

Forum: Talking Tires

Discuss the ups and downs of low rolling resistance tires with other hybrid drivers.

For years, the Toyota Prius has come standard with the low resistance Goodyear Integrity. But those tires are notorious for wearing out fast, and that’s not the only compromise. “You can get a tire that will give you better mileage, but you are going to give something up,” Matt Edmonds, vice president of tire discounter Tire Rack told Automotive News. “Typically that would have meant stopping distance, handling in wet conditions.” (Toyota picked the Toyo Proxes A20 for 2010 Prius premium “V” trim, and the Highlander Hybrid.)

Tire Trade-Offs

In September, Tire Rack conducted a “Real World Road Ride Economy Run” to determine whether lower rolling resistance tires are effective at increasing fuel efficiency. The test used a small fleet of Toyota Prii outfitted with the Goodyear Integrity all-season radial tires as a baseline. Each tire was driven over 550 miles of a 6.6-mile loop of expressways, highways and side roads.

The Prius outfitted with the baseline tire achieved 51.4 miles per gallon, but the best performer was the new Michelin Energy Saver A/S that clocked 53.8 mpg. The Michelin HydroEdge with Green X delivered only 51.1 mpg. The other tested tires included the Bridgestone Ecopia EP100, Yokohama dB Super E-Spec, and Goodyear Assurance ComforTred.

The Michelin Energy Saver was also very effective in stopping the Prius when traveling at 50 mph in wet conditions—verifying Michelin claims that the Energy Saver is “up to 8 percent more fuel-efficient than standard tires” and “stops up to 8 feet shorter.” The company equates the fuel savings to reducing CO2 emission as much as planting 40 trees.

But the approximate 2-mpg advantage of the Michelin Energy Saver versus the Michelin HydroEdge Green X comes at a price. The HydroEdge, which uses a tread pattern and compound engineered for a longer life, comes with a 90,000-mile warranty. The Energy Saver A/S does not have a mileage warranty.

Low-Resistance 101

Harder tires = lower rolling resistance. And other basics.

The upcoming Chevy Volt will ride on the Goodyear Assurance Fuel Max, which strikes a balance between low rolling resistance and long life. It has a tread compound designed to deliver a 27 percent reduction in rolling resistance, and comes with a 65,000-mile tread wear warranty.

Calculating the costs and the payback for a more expensive tire is also tricky. Doug Girvin, director of product marketing for Michelin, makes the argument for the more expensive and higher-mpg tire: “When you take the cost of that tire and the cost of the fuel that it took over the life of that tire vs. a slightly less expensive tire that uses a little more fuel, the average cost-per-mile driven came within one-hundredth of a penny of each other.”


  • My Experience

    Had a bad exp on lower resistance factory tires. The traction on wet surface was just awful compared to my current tires.

    Given the relatively small difference in mpg in all the tires above, I’d think traction should be a much higher priority than fuel economy. Furthermore, keeping tires properly inflated at all times probably will be the bigger efficiency factor for most people.

  • veek

    We bought an Escape hybrid 3 years ago, which had factory-supplied low-resistance tires. They lasted a bit more than 33,000 miles and although road noise was OK, my wife and I never felt comfortable with the wet traction, snow and ice traction, stability, wet or dry handling, and wet or dry braking. Hydroplaning was scary bad. We could not remember a worse tire (we have also driven some miles in non-hybrid Escapes, so it didn’t seem the car was at fault). The major redeeming factor of the original tires was that they strongly encouraged us to drive more slowly. This was all subjective, and we had no means of providing any objectively measured data, but we were glad to see them go and should have tossed them sooner.

    We now have Fortera Triple-Treads, which were rated highly by groups like Tire Rack, and they seem far superior to the low-resistance tires in every driving parameter except, perhaps, road noise (although new tires will generally perform better than a worn set). We immediately felt a remarkable difference in perceived safety from the better traction. Mileage has suffered less than 1 mpg although tires are only one factor. Not only will we never choose another low-resistance tire for our FEH, we will probably replace any that we find on any future car, until their performance improves tremendously. We don’t think we should feel guilty about not squeezing every bit of mileage at a high perceived cost in vehicle safety and handling quality — the hybrid gets decent enough mileage with the standard tires.

    I’m sure this will be the first of many anecdotal observations from readers, but that’s our experience.

  • Shellock

    The factory goodyears on a prius are a disaster on snow (especailly in CT with hills) For winter get snows or the over zealous traction control will kill you

  • Timothy

    For you people who have problems with wet traction, increasing your tire pressure a bit does wonders. It also will help increase mileage on top of it. The downside is snow traction goes down. So, just deflate a bit for winter for get snow tires.

  • Anonymous

    The traction/turning/stopping difference between a good tire and a bad tire is way beyond inflating and deflating the tires IMHO.

  • john iv

    Prius is also plural. It’s not Prii. It’s a bit confusing because what Toyota says the word means (to come before) makes Prius a verb. But the Latin word Prius is actually an adjective (this is where Toyota says the word originates). Prii would be correct if Prius was a verb in Latin. The plural of Prius as an adjective would be priora in Latin. I don’t like priora either as it is a completely new word. A Toyota rep did say that there is no right and wrong way to say the plural form of Prius. So I say let’s make Prius plural and singular as such great words as fish, moose and bison.

  • DONALD L. ENOCH

    I agree with you 100%.Safety should always be #1 on our list.

  • ms

    The site should also compare the performance of the tires.

    As you may find in specialised mags, the brands are not all the same.

    if you compare michelan green with the standard michelan you will find the the performance is better on the green.
    Less meters to stop, better handling and double the lifetime of the tire.
    Is not a safety issue.

    But if you choose other brand… You should be informed.

  • jeff steele

    I have a 09 Prius standard model with approximately 35,000 miles on the original OEM Goodyear tires,which need replacing Has anyone used the Nokian WRG2 tyres Any feedback would be helpful
    thanks

  • John Christopher

    I own a 2007 Honda Civic Hybrid. The original tires were low-resistance Dunlops. They lasted 50,000 miles and gave me an average ~42.5 mpg in mostly freeway driving. COSTCO Website recommended Michelin low-resistance tires @$125 + $15 installation for each. But these had no mileage warranty, so I went with the standard Michelin X-radial, on sale @$440 installed for set of 4.

    My gas mileage dropped immediately to 33.5 mpg !! Assuming new low-resistance tires will last 50,000 miles and gas costs ~$3.00 in Northern California where I live, the difference in fuel costs over the life of the tires is ~$850.

    I’m hoping COSTCO will replace the Michelin X with Michelin – Energy Saver A/S.

  • Mark O. Rosacker

    I am just now replacing a set of Michelin Hydroedge tires on my 2004 Prius. They are warranted for 90,000 miles, and I have 86,500 plus on mine, so no complaints there. The only real problem is that Michelin currently has these tires on a nation-wide back order with no projected production date. I ordered some a month ago, and they are still on back order. As of today, I ordered a set of Michelin Energy Saver A/S to replace them, and they should be in and mounted in about a week. I would readily have bought another set of Hydroedges, but they are simply unavailable for the forseeable future. Please let me know if anyone has any experience with these tires. I hope that they live up to their manufacturer’s quality reputation. BTW: the factory Goodyear Invecta tires were VERY poor quality…didn’t last 25,000 miles.

  • Mary

    I need to replace the tires on my 07 Prius. Have read quite a few articles but they are all confusing. Any recommendations for fuel economy and good handling in the snow and ice? Seems you have to give up one for the other. Will need to replace very soon so any help will be appreciated.

  • Ed

    For what it’s worth, my local tire dealer says that OEM tires (all low resistance) on all makes and models wear out on average 15-25,000 miles. The real big question for everyone is what tires do you get after the first ones go, and that is not simple.

  • JP

    You all need to check out the new Nokian Entyre! They have a youtube video of their resistance testing. Also, the tires have four different tread patterns to assist in different weather conditions. Good stuff!

  • Doug

    Something else to consider is tire tread compound. I put a set of Michelin Hydro Edge Green X on my 07 Prius 45,000 miles ago. The inside shoulders are now worn down to near bald. The alignment and suspension have been checked and there are no issues with the suspension. I am told by a reputable garage that the tires are wearing normally, but that Michelin makes a softer tire that Michigan roads tend to wear faster. The garage recommended a harder tread compound tire like the Yokohamas (Envigors was one choice). No point in sinking big bucks on a 90,000 mile tire if they’ll only last to 50,000 miles.

  • tapra1

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  • BradS12

    New to the whole topic as I just learned such a tire exists. While to the owner, the savings in mileage vs cost of the tire may seem to make up for it – is the bigger picture not what it does for the environment as a whole? If I drop x mpg, causing x pollution, where does that weigh against a factory having to produce that many more tires since they do not last as long as the “normal” tires? For me, if I drop 5 mpg I wonder is it better, truly, in the long run to my pocket (and environment) to just have one set that lasts 75,000 miles vs 3 @ 25,000? Wouldn’t lower profile tires with less sidewall have the same effect?