Michelin seeks its future in premium EV
French tire manufacturer Michelin has just launched a new tire portfolio specially designed for sporty electric cars. By doing so, Michelin shows that it wants to go upmarket again and provide rubber for the tire business’s upper (new) segments.
Like all established tire manufacturers, Michelin lies under the pressure of new, Asian tire manufacturers. However, in the lower segments, the prices of their tires are unbeatable. So, the company has once again decided to go for innovation and the much more profitable upper segments of the tire industry.
The electric car is coming, and this requires another round of innovation from the manufacturers. First of all, electric cars are far heavier than their ICE counterparts because of the battery weight.
According to Michelin, a tire has to augment by 15% its weight supporting capacity to achieve the same performance as on ICE cars. EVs also have a very different weight distribution, which also affects road-holding. “The tire has to deliver more effort for the same result.”
A second important factor is the rolling resistance. Concentrating on this parameter shows that a 50% additional range can be gained. For cars having autonomy of 300 to 400 km, this is huge.
“The tire contributes largely to the energy performance of a car,” says Eric Vinesse, head of R&D at Michelin. “A quarter of the energy consumption comes from the tire. Needless to say that this is of utmost importance.”
Third but not least, the tire tread is used more rapidly because of the abundant torque exercised on it by an electric motor, both in accelerating and decelerating (recuperating energy). Michelin is working on the trad and the entire structure of the tire to compensate for this.
Minor factors like noise are trying to be remediated using a foam inside the tire that absorbs air vibrations. However, when the car subdues other mechanical noises, wind noise and tire rumble can become important sources of irritation for some.
Of course, an electric car can very well ride on basic tires, but electric cars will have to meet high demands when you get higher up in the market segments. This is where the established tire manufacturers want to be: performant tires for high-end EVs will be seriously expensive, so give higher profit margins.
“The real strategic issue is the electrification market and the way Michelin wants to position itself on it,” says Frédéric Rozier of Mirabaud in the French newspaper La Tribune. The EV is an opportunity to augment the value, and Michelin is investing huge sums in this.
Pilot Sport EV
“The electric car will fuel innovation in the tire business,” says Eric Vinesse. “At Michelin, we launched our first dedicated EV tires in 2013, after having already produced a tailor-made tire for the then-new Renault Zoe.”
At the moment, Michelin is commercializing its new Pilot Sport EV, a range of tires dedicated to electric cars with sporty ambitions. Apart from being extremely fit for electric cars, they are also ‘eco-responsible’ because they’re CO2 neutral at purchase.
“Our goal to equip EVs is the same as with all our other tire products: provide mobility with longer-lasting, lighter, more performant, and less rubber-consuming tires,” concludes Eric Vinesse.