At a dramatic evening media event held in New York — as well as in Paris, Berlin and Shanghai — to highlight its latest environmental initiative, top executives of Michelin laid out exactly how much “being green” can add up to in “greenbacks,” for both buyers of passenger car and commercial truck tires.

“Did you know that up to 20% of the energy needed to operate your car is due to the tires? And for commercial trucks, the impact may be even higher, up to 30% and more,” said Jim Micali, chairman & president of Michelin North America, as he kicked off the U.S. announcement of Michelin's “Green Meter,” a web-viewable “clock” that ticks off in real time the amount of fuel saved and the reduction in CO2 emissions made thanks to the worldwide use of Michelin “green energy saving” tires since the first ones were rolled out in 1992.

While several electronic mega-billboards that now define Times Square at night were given over to images of a very environmentally aware Bibendum (aka “The Michelin Man”) and data pulled from the new Green Meter, Micali pointed out that the 20-30% of energy consumption caused by tire rolling resistance “collectively translates to up to 9% of total worldwide oil consumption that is directly related to tire use.” He added that “up to 3.5% of all fossil-derived CO2 emissions can be traced directly to tire performance.”

According to Micali, among the “green tires” already issued by Michelin, the X One wide “single” truck tire offered in North America delivers a 4% fuel economy savings and cuts the weight of a tractor-trailer by up to 720 lb. “A single truck with Michelin X One tires can save up to 80 gallons of fuel each month, which at today's prices equates to more than $200 per month in fuel. When you consider the largest fleet in the U.S. has more than 10,000 tractor-trailers, the fuel savings for that fleet alone would be $24-million per year.”

Micali went on to reveal that more than 500,000 X One tires are now rolling on U.S. roads. “Collectively, these revolutionary tires have already saved 15-million gallons of fuel and have reduced CO2 emissions by more than 165 thousand tons,” he stated. “As more than 1,000 vehicles convert to X One tires each month, these savings continue to grow.”

Michelin's green tire objective is “to ensure that by the time [the year 2030] the number of vehicles worldwide doubles, the total tire-related consumption of fuel and raw materials for each such vehicle will be halved,” said Micali.

Towards that end, he said Michelin is “leading the effort” to establish government regulations in each country to create fuel-economy labeling for cars and trucks. According to Micali, in the U.S. is “aggressively supporting” legislation pending before Congress that would implement an information program that would give tire buyers “for the first time the ability to know and compare rolling resistance performance characteristics at the point of sale…this will allow consumers to choose the most fuel-efficient tire for their vehicles.”

Micali added that the tire maker is working with California to implement state regulations already passed that will require a rolling resistance grading system for tires sold there, noting this labeling system could be in place as early as 2009.