Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have found that a pavement property called "deflection" could save more that $15 billion in annual fuel costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

A study released Feb. 27 focuses on the interplay between a vehicle and the road, and how that interplay can affect fuel consumption. Known as pavement-vehicle interaction, it is seen in three forms: roughness, texture and deflection.

The MIT study concluded that concrete pavements, inherently stiffer than asphalt, can reduce a car's "footprint" and gas costs.

The report, titled "Where the Rubber Meets the Road: Estimating the Impact of Deflection-Induced Pavement-Vehicle Interaction on Fuel Consumption," focuses on deflection. Deflection refers to the small dent in the pavement that a car creates as it moves down the road. This dent creates a slight but constant uphill climb, which burns more fuel. The effect is similar to walking on sand. With each step, your feet sink and create a dip.

In a previous study, MIT researchers found that using stiffer pavements decreases deflection and reduces fuel consumption by as much as 3% — a savings that could add up to 273 million barrels of crude oil per year, or $15.6 billion.

"While the use of fossil fuel-based transportation may be inevitable," says the MIT report, "improving fuel efficiency can create big change — for example, a 1% reduction in fuel consumption could cut greenhouse gas emissions by up to 15.5 million tons of carbon dioxide per year."

A copy of "Where the Rubber Meets the Road" is available here.

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