GM and Partners Burn Rubber to Improve Fuel Economy
National Tire Research Center to speed testing, development of
DETROIT – General Motors' drive to improve vehicle fuel economy is
expected to gain traction in January when GM engineers and scientists
begin work with research partners to accelerate the development of
tire technology at the new National Tire Research Center in Halifax
The world-class facility, to which GM contributed $5 million, uses
state-of-the-art tire performance machinery that will enable
automakers and tire manufacturers to replicate real-world emergency
events and improve vehicle highway safety.
By some estimates, tire design can help improve fuel efficiency by up
to 7 percent. A tire's rolling resistance is determined by variations
in tread pattern, construction, material quality and processing
techniques. Ultimately, the lower the rolling resistance, the less
fuel is needed to move the vehicle forward.
Low rolling resistance tires are expected to help customers save money
at the gas pump, as will more efficient conventional engines and
"The work we'll undertake at the National Tire Research Center
will have a big impact on how quickly next-generation tire
technologies will be developed and the accuracy of their design and
engineering," said Ken Morris, GM's executive director of Global
Vehicle Performance and Safety, and proving grounds and test labs.
Morris attended the center's ribbon-cutting ceremony in October.
The center's $11.2 million tire performance test equipment, known as
Flat-Trac LTRe, is unique in its use of electric motor technology and
can run a tire up to 200 mph. It provides data on handling, ride,
torque, and braking capabilities on various surfaces, including wet
road conditions. GM was instrumental in developing the machine's test
The Flat-Trac LTRe is capable of replicating all driving maneuvers of
a passenger car or light truck on the road. GM and other automotive
engineers will be able to use the data collected by the equipment to
predict vehicle performance and modify tire characteristics to improve
performance for low rolling resistance, better road-holding capability
and other criteria.
"This facility's test equipment is like going from a basic
telescope to the Hubble – it opens up a whole new world of
possibilities," said Frank Della Pia, a former GM vehicle
dynamics manager who is executive director for the tire research
center. "It can test tires in the full range of the performance
spectrum. This facility has no peer in the world. It's going to enable
a transformational leap in tire technology."
The center's facilities also include the Southern Virginia Vehicle
Motion (SoVa Motion) Laboratory, strategically located in the heart of
the Virginia Motorsports Alley at the Virginia International Raceway.
SoVa Motion offers shock and suspension testing, virtual prototyping
of vehicle components, and a range of on-vehicle sensing such as wheel
force transducers. SovaMotion will take advantage of the Tire Center's
test data to conduct drive and handling simulations that could help
reduce time and cost of vehicle program development.
"The work GM will do with SovaMotion and the National Tire
Research Center will further improve laboratory test methods and
improve our overall vehicle development process," Morris said.
"Ultimately, that means better vehicles for our customers."