Would You Ditch The Spare Tire To Improve Fuel Economy?
May 20, 2011
by Evan McCausland
Want to improve your fuel economy? Many automakers claim the key to increased MPG ratings is by cutting vehicle weight — and some companies believe it’s essential to eliminate the traditional spare tire in order to do just that. But are buyers keen to ditch the donut — a longstanding measure of security — in favor of whittling down their fuel consumption?
General Motors is one of a number of automakers who believe customers are willing to make such a swap. Take, for instance, the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze. Although (compact) spare tires were standard on the preceding Cavalier and Cobalt models, GM instead elected to provide each brand new Cruze with a different solution: an on-board inflator, much like that found in the Chevrolet Corvette.
GM believes the inflator — which can also inject a sealant capable of repairing quarter-inch gouges and punctures– is a practical alternative. Better yet, it also sheds nearly 26 pounds of weight from the vehicle’s curb weight. But is adopting such a system a risky proposition? The automaker doesn’t believe so, noting that tire pressure monitoring systems — like that found in the Cruze — push owners to maintain correct tire pressures, helping reduce the chances of developing a flat.
“Getting rid of something as important as the spare wheel wasn’t a decision we made lightly,” says Terry Connolly, director of GM’s tire and wheel systems group. “The universal implementation of tire pressure monitoring systems over the past five years has significantly reduced the likelihood that a flat tire will leave you stranded by the side of the road.”
Reduces, yes, but not eliminates. GM suggests owners who encounter larger blowouts may need to use OnStar to request roadside assistance. Cruze buyers who abide by the principles of Murphy’s Law can always spend an extra $100 to opt for a conventional compact spare tire and wheel on virtually every trim — even on the fuel-conscious Cruze Eco model.