Bridgestone has updated its Ecopia line of fuel efficient tyres with an expanded range that now also includes sizes for sports utility vehicles (SUVs).
The company's fifth generation Ecopia range now comprises of the the EP150 and E200 aimed at small to medium size passenger cars and the EP850 for SUVs.
The EP850 is Bridgestone's first Ecopia tyre aimed at on-road SUVs in Malaysia. For the keen off-roader, Bridgestone suggests fitting the Dueler series instead.
The EP150 is available in sizes of between 14-inch and 15-inch, while the EP200 is available in sizes between 13-inch to 17-inch sizes. The larger EP850 ranges between 17-inch to 18-inch. Recommended retail price starts from RM220 for the 13-inch Ecopia EP200, stretching to RM580 for 17-inch size.
Based on independent testing conducted by the Japan Automobile Transport Technology Association (JATA) with a Toyota Premio fitted with 195/65R15 tyres, the Ecopia EP200 is found to be 8.1 per cent more fuel efficient than Bridgestone's own Turanza AR10.
Further testing by Bridgestone also revealed that the EP200 has 47.2 per cent less rolling resistance than a conventional tyre. The company says rolling resistance is responsible for between 20 to 30 per cent of a vehicle's total fuel consumption.
There is a perception that reduced rolling resistance will also result in poorer braking performance, a perception that Bridgestone wants to change.
Based on Bridgestone's own testing with a Toyota Corolla Altis wearing 195/65R15 tyres, it only takes 30.7 metres to stop from 80 km/h to standstill on a wet surface, 3 per cent better than a conventional Turanza AR10 and 8 per cent better than the previous generation Ecopia EP100A.
The lower range EP150 takes a slightly longer 32.6 metres to come to a halt when tested with a Toyota Corolla Axio under the same driving conditions by JATA. Fuel consumption is also 4.3 percent better than a Turanza AR10.
As SUVs are heavier, a poorer brake performance is to be expected, irrespective of the tyres used. Still, Bridgestone says a Honda CR-V fitted with 225/65 R17 tyres will come to a halt 6 percent sooner wearing EP850 tyres than the Dueler H/L683. As a bonus, the EP850 also consumes 3.9 percent less fuel, as verified by JATA.
As for other parameters of performance like dry handling, silence and comfort, Bridgestone says its test data shows that each of the Ecopia tyres maintain the same performance level in these areas as their respective benchmark non-fuel efficient tyres like the Turanza AR10 and Dueler H/L683.
According to Bridgestone, the key to reducing Ecopia tyres' rolling resistance without compromising other aspects of tyre performance is a new Bridgestone developed Nano Pro Tech compound, which inhibits heat build up and allows for a higher ratio of silica material. Heat causes energy loss while silica reduces rolling resistance.
Advances in thread pattern design has also improved the Ecopia's durability and driving stability by optimizing ground contact.
With the classroom lectures over, Bridgestone brought members of the press to its proving ground in Ayutthaya, Thailand.
The first test involved two back-to-back drive on a skidpad with two Toyota Corolla Altis 1.8 (without electronic stability or traction control) - one fitted with EP200 tyres and another with the outgoing EP100A tyres.
It had been raining heavily and what was supposed to be a dry weather test had quickly become a wet weather performance test. The heavy rain had caused a mild build-up of standing water on the skidpad.
The instructions given was to floor the throttle pedal and accelerate up to 80 km/h as soon as possible before proceeding to enter the skidpad and hold the car at a steady 80 km/h along a concentric circle.
On my first run with the EP100A fitted car, it was harder to keep to the target speed of 80 km/h without running wide.
On the wet skidpad, the front tyres struggled to find a grip. As the test car was a family focused Corolla Altis, there was nothing dramatic to report. A simple release of the throttle was all that was required to bring the car back in line.
On my next run with the EP200 fitted on another Corolla Altis 1.8, the improvement could be noticed almost immediately. Having familiarized myself with the car and the skidpad better, I even started pushing the limits of the tyre and progressed up to 90 km/h with the car still having no trouble holding on to the line. From behind the steering wheel, it felt there was still enough grip to push further but I wouldn't want to risk a warning from the instructors so I held back.
Of course, as I increased throttle pressure, there were more noticeable squeal in the tyres and a bit more finesse is now required to hold the car in line.
Unfortunately the bad weather also interrupted our test session and we missed out on the slalom and other test sections. Standing water continued to build up to the point where it was hard to stay on the track any longer and the water level is now higher than our shoe soles.
However, based on my limited time on the track, I was still pleasantly surprised by the wet weather performance of the EP200.
To be honest, initially I had a very low, almost dismissive view of the tyre. My previous experience with fuel efficient tyres from other brands have not been very positive. With the Ecopia series however, I must say that I was pleasantly surprised.
I guess tyre technology have developed to such a level where fuel-efficient tyres can now deliver similar performance to regular non-performance oriented tyres.
Of course, an Ecopia tyre is not a Potenza and buyers should still maintain a reasonable expectation of its performance. But if you are comparing against other middle range tyres, you should consider the Ecopia.