For the tenth time in twelve years, Michelin is sponsoring something called the Challenge Bibendum. This global event has been held in Europe, the U.S., Asia and, now, Brazil. Michelin invited us down to check of some of the work people are doing to improve the fuel efficiency of vehicles around the world. We’ll have those reports up throughout the rest of the week, but we wanted to start by understanding why a tire company would go through all the trouble of organizing this many people and cars so many times in so many places. The short answer is that Michelin is able to learn a lot from these events, and that helps the company make the tires that car companies might not know they want yet.
For example, Didier Miraton, one of Michelin’s three managing partners (the company doesn’t have a CEO) said:
Working through the Challenge Bibendum and with all of the players in the electrical mobility industry, we came to realize that autonomy [i.e., range] on an electrical urban vehicle was 30 to 40 percent linked to the fuel efficiency of the tire, therefore, it gave us the thrust to go into the direction of the low-emission tire, the urban electrical vehicle tire, that would provide very fuel low efficiency not just to reduce CO2 impact but actually to allow this kind of vehicle to run because it would bring autonomy that would make them viable…
Terry Gettys, director of the research and development process of the Michelin Group, added:
Fundamentally, designing tires for electric vehicles is not different than for engined vehicles. We are working with car manufacturers to see what specific tuning they require. Many of them, for example, are targeting urban applications, city environments, so they are looking more at lower speed, very low noise tuning. As a result, the tires may be tuned that way, but the fundamental performances are not changed. You still need the impact for handling and comfort, you still need to try and optimize the rolling resistance. The tires that we are demonstrating optimized for electric vehicles go in two design directions. One of them is a very small tire with a very small rim, a 10-inch rim. It’s pretty much a standard rim, but sized small. The vehicle manufacturer has downsized the brake system as well, inspired by some racing systems. … The other concept is a 21-inch tire … a tall and narrow tire. That’s optimizing packaging in the vehicle in a different manner, optimizing the vehicle width space of the vehicle as well as [aerodynamics].
Been following the track via this link – and interesting stuff added every day.