Off-road tyres are non-negotiable for navigating challenging terrains, but they are also an unavoidable cost for open-road fuel economy. So how do we strike a balance?
Off-road tyres provide superior traction, durability, and puncture resistance, allowing for safe (as can be) and efficient travel over rocky paths or through mud and snow. But as with any performance-specific parts , these benefits come with a trade-off. With off-roading tyres, that trade-off is open-road fuel efficiency.
Off-road tyres are typically wider and have a larger diameter compared to standard tires, resulting in increased rolling resistance. This enhanced resistance is mainly due to the aggressive, chunky tread patterns, designed to improve traction on difficult terrain. The larger surface area in contact with the road leads to more friction, forcing the engine to work harder to maintain speed. The effect… Higher fuel consumption.
Additionally, off-road tyres are heavier, due to the robust construction materials they are made with. The increased weight contributes to the overall vehicle weight, a commonly known factor affecting fuel consumption.
The question, of course, is just how much is fuel economy affected. Obviously, it differs depending on the type of off-road tyre, but the impact can be significant. According to the U.S Department of Energy’s consumer resource, 20% to 30% of a vehicle’s fuel consumption and 24% of road vehicle CO2 emissions are tyre-related.
But while off-road tyres do negatively impact fuel efficiency, their importance cannot be understated. For outdoor enthusiasts, off-road tires are indispensable. They provide much better grip and control for off-road terrain and they are built to resist sharp objects, reducing the risk of tyre damage and increasing the car and driver’s safety.
So, how can we find a balance between open-road fuel efficiency and off-road capability? The key lies in careful selection and thoughtful use of your tyres.
First, consider your driving habits. If the majority of your driving is on paved roads, with occasional off-road adventures, consider purchasing all-terrain tyres. These tyres offer a compromise, providing decent off-road capability while maintaining better fuel efficiency compared to dedicated off-road tyres.
Second, consider tyre pressure. Off-road tyres often require lower pressure for optimum performance on rugged terrains, but this decreases fuel efficiency on open roads. Regularly adjusting your tyre pressure depending on your driving conditions can help optimise fuel efficiency without compromising off-road performance.
Lastly, consider a second set of tyres – if you have the time and money for the regular changing. If you re someone who frequently switches between city and off-road driving, having a set of highway tires for regular use and off-road tyres a practical solution. Granted, this would be costly initially, but in the long term it would keep both sets of tyres healthier for longer and lower your day to day fuel consumption .