Let’s face it – it isn’t fair to expect OEMs to bolt performance rubber to a four lakh-rupee hot hatch, an eight lakh-rupee mid-sizer and in some cases, even a 20 lakh-rupee SUV. In India, where fuel economy outweighs every other concern including safety, under-tyred cars are the norm, not the exception. The average consumer demands high tyre life as well, so the compound is made harder which means it wears slowly with low grip as a by-product. On the road, in an emergency – that can be the difference between a close shave and a fatal accident.
Year after year, a lot of Indian motorists pay the ultimate price for this unawareness due to their myopic focus of achieving 0.5 kpl better fuel efficiency, long tyre life and low cost when the time comes to replace. Better cornering grip or extra braking performance that would come in handy in critical situations does not feature on this list.
However, with advancements in rubber technology, it is now possible to have the best of both worlds. Rolling resistance has become a buzzword with tyre manufacturers across the globe – including Bridgestone. Five years ago, the Japanese tyre manufacturer had launched their ‘Ecopia’ range of tyres for the fuel-efficiency crazed Asia-Pacific region – where most customers want to stretch a litre of fuel to the farthest distance possible. Since then it has sold over one crore units and has now decided to launch these in the Indian market as well, in the aftermarket to begin with.
A total of 26 sizes are currently available across two variants – EP150 (for cars) and EP850 (for SUVs) and Bridgestone claims that they can help motorists achieve 7 per cent and 10 per cent better fuel efficiency respectively, compared to conventional tyres.
According to Bridgestone, a bespoke compound helps Ecopia boast of a low rolling resistance,
which helps fuel economy and consequently lower emissions as well. On the other hand, an optimised tread block pattern still provides excellent water channelling and strong wet weather performance.
Driving cars shod with Ecopia tyres at Bridgestone’s Proving Ground on the outskirts of Bangkok, it was clear that the wet weather performance was very good. Ride was satisfactory as well over the road patches that simulated several surfaces and textures and the designed tread blocks keep road noise to a minimum.
Bridgestone claims that an average consumer driving 10,000 km per year will be able to recover the cost of the tyres in a span of four years (40,000 km) by the means of fuel saving. If true, this feature could make Ecopia the next ‘go-to’ tyre in the Indian aftermarket.