The original Bridgestone Ecopia low-rolling resistance tire for cars and minivans debuted in 2009, and has continued to be part of Bridgestone’s lineup with little change ever since.
Until now, that is; with the 2015 release of the Ecopia EP422 Plus, drivers now get improved handling, better wear and, of course, better fuel efficiency. The fuel savings provided form part of Bridgestone’s plan to help OEMs meet stricter Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) figures, due to be instated by 2025.
Bridgestone’s engineers will tell you that they’re constantly fiddling with the chemical makeup of the rubber they use, and the latest chemical concoction used for the 422 Plus’ rubber compound offers better rolling resistance. A new nylon material has also been applied to the tire’s surface in an effort to help it perform better at higher speeds without negatively affecting fuel economy.
Also adding to the performance is a new tread pattern that helps provide a more even contact patch (think of this as the tire’s “footprint”), as well as better wet-weather performance.
Of course, the real feature people look for in a tire of this type is just how much better its low rolling-resistance build can help save cash at the pump. In that light, Bridgestone is claiming 30 more kilometres per tank, thanks to a reduction in rolling resistance over the standard EP422 by 35% when using 215-width tires that are 16” in diameter.
We were given the opportunity to test the tire’s performance in a variety of disciplines, the most interesting of which involved an adult-size tricycle equipped with three Ecopia tires. What’s even more interesting is that this turned out to be one of the most revealing exercises of our test.
There were actually two types of trikes; green bikes equipped with 422 Plus tires, and silver examples with standard 422s. What I did was allowed myself a single push of the pedals, starting at the 3 o’clock position, after which I waited to see how far I would go, and how quickly. The bike equipped with the 422 Plus moved faster and added about 30 feet to my journey. Rudimentary? Perhaps, but it was quite illustrative.
The rest of the testing gamut was somewhat less quirky; we had the opportunity to put a field of Toyota Camrys -- a car Bridgestone thinks is a perfect platform for the Ecopia -- through their paces on a half-autocross course, half-circuit that featured a drenched hairpin turn to get an idea of the Ecopia’s new focus on water management. We put Camrys equipped with non-Plus EP 422 tires as well, and while it took a lot of pushing in the wet to spot a difference between the two, since we were on a closed course we were able to drive harder than anyone should in the wet. The new tire was quieter and rode smoother, too.
Bridgestone has also partnered with BMW in order to design a special Ecopia tire -- the EP 500 --to be fitted to the BMW i3 electric car; they’re the only company that makes the tall, skinny tire required to fit that vehicle.
The Ecopia 422 Plus will be available at retailers starting in April of this year, with sizes ranging from 205-225 mm in width, and 15-18” in diameter. In addition to that, 14 new sizes have been added for a total of 43.