Yokohama dB super E-spec
Yokohama dB super E-spec; photo courtesy Yokohama. Click image to enlarge

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By James Bergeron

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Niagara Ontario – When I think of tires, I don’t think of the environment: in fact, the environment would be the furthest thing from my mind, unless the talk is of winter tires. But then, I’m just hoping I don’t actually have to use them and somehow we get a freakishly warm winter with no snow or ice. When it is not winter, I think of burning rubber and fuel on the track and those are some of the furthest things from being environmentally conscious as you could get. So it was a surprise to me when Yokohama invited me to Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario to roam the wine country of southern Ontario with the intention of showing us how environmentally friendly a tire company could be.

As it turned out the day wasn’t all about tree hugging and sunshine as Yokohama had two very different tires for us to test: its new Advan Neova AD08 high performance summer tire and a new eco-friendly tire designed for hybrid vehicles: the dB (decibel) super E-spec tire.

Yokohama dB super E-spec
Yokohama dB super E-spec; image courtesy Yokohama. Click image to enlarge

Niagara-on-the-Lake and Niagara Falls, Ontario are beautiful historic areas, and if it wasn’t for the hustle and bustle of the tourists and the construction I suspect it would be a very quiet area, especially in the evening once the shops have closed up. Driving a Toyota Prius riding on the new dB super E-spec tire I was challenged to drive around the city and evaluate the tire’s capabilities. Yokohama wanted us to pay particular attention to how quiet the tires were on the road and try as I might, I couldn’t hear them making noise… so I guess they accomplished that goal!

Designed with hybrids in mind, the db super E-spec tire is not only quiet but provides reduced rolling resistance – according to Yokohama, 11 per cent less rolling resistance than the Michelin HydroEdge tire. This translates directly into improved fuel economy as rolling resistance can account for up to 20 per cent of the friction that a vehicle must overcome when moving.

If you reduce rolling resistance, though, you also reduce grip – that is what basic physics tells me – but Yokohama has managed to provide a fine compromise. They accomplished this by developing a rubber compound based on orange oil (sourced from the waste product of oranges, such as the peel). Orange oil is a naturally sticky substance and, when combined molecularly with other oils, allows the compound to become soft when warm, providing more grip as the tire is driven harder, and then return to a stiffer compound that rides over the undulations in the road during typical driving scenarios.

Yokohama dB super E-spec  on Toyota Prius
Yokohama dB super E-spec on Toyota Prius; photo by James Bergeron. Click image to enlarge

The dB super E-spec tire is also made from 80 per cent non-petroleum materials, using rayon instead of a polyester casing, natural rubber instead of synthetic rubber and charcoal carbon instead of petroleum based carbon. As a result, Yokohama has developed a tire that is environmentally conscious from beginning to end.

The dB super E-spec will only be available in four sizes (185/65/R15, 195/65/R15, 195/55/R16, and 215/60/R16). These four sizes happen to correspond with the OEM tire size of the most popular hybrid vehicles today, such as the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight.

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