WASHINGTON-A run-flat, low-rolling-resistance Goodyear Eagle GA ``Extended Mobility Tire'' is a vital component in a prototype Advanced Natural Gas Vehicle unveiled by the U.S. Department of Energy on Nov. 4. The car, a Geo Prizm fitted with a natural gas engine and fuel tanks, was hailed by Deputy Energy Sec-retary William H. White as the car of the future.
``The ANGV will create a cleaner environment and stimulate the economy nationwide,'' Mr. White said.
Development of the ANGV was a cooperative effort led by the DOE and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and included Goodyear, several gas companies and smaller firms involved in the development of natural gas vehicles.
Goodyear's contribution, the Eagle GA EMT, combines optimum fuel-saving features, in that the tire eliminates the need for a spare tire and jack while also offering lower rolling resistance than any previous run-flat tire.
``Run-flat capability was No. 1 among our priorities, but rolling resistance was No. 2,'' said William E. Egan, Goodyear chief engineer of product design and original equipment technology. ``To achieve a run-flat tire with rolling resistance on the lower end of the spectrum was our challenge.''
Goodyear developed run-flat technology in the early 1980s, butcustomer indifference led the company to withhold it from the market until conditions changed, according to Mr. Egan. Goodyear run-flat tires are now optional equipment on the Chevrolet Corvette.
Inclusion of the Eagle GA EMT on the ANGV could extend the sale of run-flat tires from ultra-high-performance vehicles into the family car market, according to Mr. Egan. ``The dream of eliminating the inconvenience of disabling flats on the family automobile is moving a step closer to reality,'' he said.
If introduced to consumers today, the ANGV would cost about $2,000 to $3,000 more than the average Geo Prizm, according to Mr. White. But motorists would pay 20 to 30 cents less per gallon for a fill-up, compared with gasoline-powered cars, as well as reducing air pollution from vehicles and U.S. dependence on foreign petroleum, he said.
There are more than 30,000 natural gas vehicles on U.S. roads, but these are nearly all trucks, buses and delivery vans. A lower mileage range between fill-ups, compared with gasoline-powered vehicles, has always hampered acceptance of natural gas vehicles; so have outsized engines and fuel tanks that cramped passenger and trunk space.
The ANGV, however, will go 300 miles or more between fill-ups, according to the DOE. Also, its performance is as good as a conventional car, and its trunk space is 75 percent that of a gasoline- powered Geo Prizm.
Lack of availability of service stations for natural gas vehicles also has slowed acceptance, according to Mr. White. ``But the service stations will come when the market for the cars exists, and the markets for the cars will exist when they're as attractive to buyers as gasoline-powered cars,'' he said.