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05/09/2011
The long blanket

Yokohama bluearth

 

The innovative tyre from Yokohama allows considerable fuel savings while maintaining comfort and grip. The eco challenge begins with renewable materials, refined technologies and manufacturing with zero emissions 

Duilio Damiani

The offspring of a long tradition of maximum eco-sustainability that began in 1998 with the first model called DNA, Yokohama has always believed in the development of the so-called "green" tyres - along with traditional tyres - mainly for distribution in Japan, where 44 million have been sold to date.

Choice has changed; maximum attention to fuel efficiency is now at the top of the list of tyre preferences. If until ten years ago savings where eighth on end users' lists, nowadays the low running costs offered by the so-called green products are an absolute market favourite along with braking capacity and grip on the wet. With the complicity, there's no point in denying it, of vehicle manufacturers whose original equipment is able to reduce rolling resistance and can demonstrate better fuel consumption and lower toxic emissions. It is this resistance that dissipates about 20% of engine power (the remaining 65% is due to air resistance and about 15% to the friction of mechanical parts) and reducing it has tangible advantages.
The banning of the most polluting components has also focused attention on ecological alternatives for making tyres which, for many manufacturers, means using vegetable extracts and natural hydrocarbons instead of synthetic aromatic oils.
The cultural change that has taken place within the sector due to renewed attention to environmental issues has imposed new and more demanding eco-friendly goals: there is in fact a search for valid design and industrial alternatives for products that will perform better also from an environmental aspect, which will soon be made necessary by the European labelling for tyres expected at the end of 2012. A shining example of this logic is Yokohama's BluEarth-1, which is ready to make its debut on the international scene and encapsulates the philosophy of a brand that dips into its history to create a new future.

 

Green and blue
The offspring of a long tradition of maximum eco-sustainability that began in 1998 with the first model called DNA, Yokohama has always believed in the development of the so-called "green" tyres - along with traditional tyres - mainly for distribution in Japan, where 44 million have been sold to date. With its adoption of eco tyres, over the past 13 years Yokohama has contributed to reducing 1.5 billion kg of CO2 emissions.
For many years, the Land of the Rising Sun has focused on respect for the environment by encouraging the industry to seek eco-compatible solutions; it is not by chance that the majority of alternative vehicles are made in Japan, like the first Toyota Prius, the real precursor of the hybrid segment, the combined combustion and electric engine that was released on the general public by the research laboratories. This and its "sister", the Auris, have been joined recently by an ever-increasing number and many more will soon be introduced to the market together with the more radical, exclusively electric models. A tyre with low rolling resistance can further increase the autonomy of these cars by lengthening recharging intervals and thereby decreeing greater energy efficiency.
The best recognition of Yokohama's eco philosophy is the use of BluEarth on these vehicles and proves the efficiency achieved by the new tyre with the green heart. Chosen as original equipment by Toyota and other manufacturers, BluEarth-1 can be used not only for hybrids or electric cars but also for all the traditional cars used by drivers who are particularly sensitive to the environment and saving.

 

Molecular alchemy
The technological solutions applied to tyres tend to prefer one aspect rather than another, or opt for a compromise between the two by balancing the elements for and against. If a blanket is too short, rather than leave either your feet or head uncovered, the best solution is to... lengthen the blanket.
The missing section is provided by the new chemical components developed for the new BluEarth, which resolve opposing aspects. First and foremost is Nano Blend, an innovative compound that optimizes chemical interactions at molecular level and balances the three factors that determine the performance of a tyre: more mileage/longer life, strength and grip on the wet. The principal promoter of these benefits is the oil extracted from citrus peel which substitutes the hydrocarbons that have been banned from industrial processes since 2010: the eco additive perfected by Yokohama has a cellular structure similar to that of natural rubber and is efficiently combined to give a stable result with good performance. At constant speed, for example on long motorways, reduced friction gives greater mileage and the heat generated by longitudinal and transversal forces provides good grip and also puts an end to the characteristic "coldness" of ecological tyres, which normally take longer to reach optimal operating temperature.
A futuristic compound for Yokohama BluEarth, but also an ultra-light structure to the advantage of non-suspended masses and inertial forces. A mix of integrated solutions in a single product distinguished by an asymmetric tread design with elaborate longitudinal wave grooves for constant water expulsion and five different tread designs for silence. The lightness of the construction has been improved also thanks to a very slim inner liner that will reduce air loss by up to 36% and keep pressures constant over time. The rolling resistance we mentioned earlier is also helped by aerodynamic resistance: the aerodynamic brake is partly represented also by the impact of air on the shoulder of the wheel and Yokohama has worked on this aspect, thanks to synergies with subsidiary company PRGR, which specializes in making golf balls. Japanese technicians studied the balls and this led to the faceted conformation of the BluEarth sidewall that is dimpled just like a golf ball to help air flow, especially at high speeds. All these technological components went into making a high performance tyre with regard to rolling resistance (RR), as shown by tests on a slope, an experiment that we saw at the recent Autopromotec in Bologna. The Yokohama technicians made a vehicle slide with its engine switched off; each time it was fitted with different sets of tyres and they demonstrated the effectiveness of less friction given by the BluEarth, which ran 43% more than the previous model, a low-friction tyre called Yokohama A-Drive.
The sizes currently available are for a wide selection of cars: this first version of BluEarth-1 (soon to be followed by others for a complete range of ecological products) comes in five sizes mainly for latest-generation hybrids: 185/65 R15, 195/65 R15, 205/55 R16, 215/60 R16 and 215/45 R17. If your tyre sizes are among these, you'll just have to wait for greener times!.

 

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