The Yokohama BluEarth-A AE-50 is an eco-friendly tyre aimed at motorists who want to reduce their car’s fuel consumption.
With most of today’s carmakers focused on engineering vehicles that are environmentally friendly, it’s no surprise that tyre manufacturers are also creating “green” products that promise to lower fuel consumption and reduce CO2 emissions by lowering rolling resistance.
Generally speaking, however, most of these “environmentally friendly” tyres share a common disadvantage, in that since they’re designed around efficiency, they usually have lower grip levels, cornering stability and wet grip when compared to their “regular” counterparts.
Yokohama, however, is attempting to make choosing an “eco-friendly” tyre less of a compromise with its BluEarth-A AE-50 tyre. Against its BluEarth AE01 predecessor, the AE-50 touts improved grip in wet conditions, is quieter and offers a longer service life.
One of the AE-50’s key ingredients is orange oil, which is extracted from orange peel. According to Yokohama, orange oil has a similar molecular structure to rubber, so adding it to the compound increases grip. The AE-50 also contains two types of silica – one to help reduce rolling resistance and another to improve grip. Meanwhile, the tyre’s lifespan is increased through a unique polymer, which boosts wear resistance.
Complementing these ingredients is the AE-50’s tread design. Apart from the carcass being placed closer to the tread to increase rigidity, the asymmetrical tread also has a pair of lightning-shaped “Thunder Bolt” grooves that aid in channelling water. To reduce road noise, the shoulder blocks are dimpled like a golf ball to lessen air resistance.
While the reduction in road noise is difficult to measure without special instruments, and its claim of improved wear characteristics without a long-term test, experiencing the tyre’s enhanced wet-weather performance is easier.
At Yokohama’s Tyre Test Centre in Rayong, Thailand, we drove two 1.8-litre Honda Civics, one equipped with AE-01s and the other with AE-50s. The tyres used were all 205/55 R16, and each car was fitted with an electronic device that measures speed and distance.
In the Civic running on AE-01s, our measured braking distance from 85km/h was 46.4m. In the Honda fitted with AE-50s, the stopping distance (also from 85km/h) was 34.6m – nearly 12m, or more than two car lengths, shorter.
To experience the tyres’ roadholding in the wet (around a skidpan), we drove two Toyota Priuses fitted with 195/65 R16 BluEarth AE-50 tyres and identically sized ones from a major European brand. The Prius shod with tyres from the competing brand started to slide at about 55km/h, while the car with the Yokohamas fared a little better, resisting skidding until around 59km/h.
Based on our first impressions, the AE-50 delivers as promised and should give drivers greater confidence in the rain. But remember, that should never be an excuse not to slow down when the weather turns nasty.