Bridgestone Ecopia truck retreads and rolling resistance
At the launch at the IAA in September 2010 of Bridgestone’s latest range of truck tyres under the Ecopia brand, Europe CEO Mac Ohashi said a range of Ecopia retread patterns would follow for the M749 and R109 drive and trailer tyres. The former was released through the company’s European Bandag dealer network in January 2011 as a replacement for the Qualitread M749, while the company says the R109 Ecopia retread – a completely new product previously unavailable in the exiting Qualitread range – will follow later in the year. Tyres & Accessories spoke to Bridgestone Europe’s TBR/Retread Business Unit about the development of the Ecopia retread range and how it is presented to the market.
The Ecopia truck tyre range was introduced in 2002 in Japan, but at the time Bridgestone Japan wasn’t involved in retreading, a fact that changed with the takeover of Bandag in 2006. Bridgestone Europe now “strives to introduce retread patterns simultaneously or closely following new tyre launches, to be able to offer our customers a total tyre life approach,” says Bridgestone representative Maarten Poot.
Ecopia retreads are linked, as their simultaneous announcement alongside the eponymous new tyre range suggests, in that the new tyre is “specifically built to enable its second or sometimes even third life as a retread,” Poot told T&A. The Ecopia brand is ostensibly linked with tyre-based ecology, as a visit to its minisite within Bridgestone’s European web presence will clarify, so T&A asked if the retread range would help further the fuel-saving claims of the new tyres. Bridgestone’s claim that around 60 per cent of a truck tyre’s rolling resistance is caused by the casing (leaving 40 per cent to the tread) “underlines the importance of using a low rolling resistance casing – with new technologies like the slim bead – to benefit from the full fuel saving potential of Ecopia retreads”.
So what role in determining the characteristics of the treads has market demand played? “The market demand around low rolling resistance tyres is a complex matter,” said Poot. “We see huge differences in between different European countries. Some markets have embraced them, while in other markets they have not been accepted very well. This is mainly caused by the difficulty to exactly isolate and prove the effect of tyres on fuel savings in real life circumstances and the fact that some low rolling resistance tyres didn’t perform well in other areas such as mileage. Our Ecopia range of new tyres and retreads is offering lower rolling resistance without compromises in areas as mileage and safety in wet conditions. We believe that this is exactly what the highway oriented fuel conscience fleet operator is looking for.”
T&A asked if this means the European truck retread market is considering rolling resistance more. While “rolling resistance has not received the same attention in the retread market as it has for new tyres”, Bridgestone is cautious about focusing on this single element. “It’s only when all significant parameters are controlled that real life fuel savings can be achieved. Tyres and retreads play a significant part, but their benefits can easily be offset by bad pressure maintenance or misalignment for instance.
“To help our customers achieve real life fuel and tyre spent savings we have developed a simple ecological tyre print calculator on our website. Through a few simple questions fleet operators immediately can see where their biggest saving potential lays. We believe that we are very well equipped with an offer of high quality new tyres and retreads and a strong service coverage through our Truck Point network to help our customers achieve this.
“Retreading plays an important role in this, but cannot be separated from such elements as the new tyres, casing, tyre maintenance, et cetera. Retreading is probably the single most effective thing a fleet operator can do in becoming more environmentally friendly in its tyre management. But yes, we think the market will be thinking more on low rolling resistance retreads.”
Poot says there had been no specific “strategic thinking” behind the schedule of the introduction, other than the obvious desire to be able to provide retreads quickly on all tyres; “we only launch new products after thorough internal tests and following strict procedures to ensure highest quality. For both products this was done at a slightly different speed.” Poot said the company has “several new developments in the pipeline,” though it is still too early in their development to reveal any new details.