Winter control: Bridgestone advances ‘Blizzak advantage’
Bridgestone Americas Inc. says the water dispersal ability of its new Blizzak WS80 winter tire for passenger cars and minivans is superior to its predecessor. It helps the tire create more grip on ice and snow. Dealers can begin placing orders this month for the WS80, which will officially launch in July 2014.
The company says the tire is engineered to give drivers impressive control in winter weather conditions. “The Blizzak WS80 stops shorter, handles better and grips the road more than our best-selling WS70 tire, which the WS80 replaces,” says Anant Gandhi, product manager.
“We like to think the WS80 is a more predictable and more driveable tire. It does what the user wants it to do. The recovery is better. For example, if you get some understeer you just have to correct the steering wheel a little bit and the tire immediately corrects,” Gandhi says.
The WS80 is “definitely better” than the WS70, according to Gandhi. “We’ve improved the winter performance in ice and snow. We improved the handling so the trade-offs between switching from an all season summer tire are less when you go to a winter tire. Of course, we do have improved snow and slush performance because of the new tread pattern. We added 20% more biting edges, which ends up equating to approximately 10% more snow traction.”
The WS80 tire has several technological improvements over the WS70:
a proprietary hydrophilic (water-loving) coating that allows the tire’s multi-cell compound to attract water, drawing it away from the road to combat slippage on ice;
bite particles in the multi-cell compound that act as microscopic studs for road grip and improved braking on ice;
a new tread pattern with 20% more block edges and higher edge/block density to channel snow, slush and water away from the contact area for added control; and
optimized contact pressure and cavity shape that helps to distribute forces evenly and effectively for better stability and control.
All conventional winter tires have sipes that act like a squeegee, according to John Arnold, education manager in Bridgestone’s consumer tire marketing division. “Their purpose is to act like a squeegee where you’re wiping water off a window. The sipes themselves pull some of that water up into the tread to get it off of the ice so that it can have some bite. They also create some biting edges, too, that also give some grip.”
The WS80’s proprietary multi-cell compound provides more places for the water to go, says Arnold. “It’s like a sponge. In addition to the sipes, all of these little pockets, the multi-cells, pull water off of the ice so that you’re further drying the ice. What you want with a tire is to create a situation like the movie ‘A Christmas Story,’ where the little boy stuck his tongue on a pole. If ice is dry enough, that’s what happens so you want to try to dry the ice as effectively as you can.”
Arnold says it is very hard to dry ice when the surface is close to freezing, calling such conditions a “worst-case scenario.” In contrast, bitter cold temperatures lead to slightly better traction because the ice is dryer. “The Blizzak advantage comes when it’s warming up and you’re getting that film of water. It’s really hard to remove that water and get good grip because the water is acting almost like oil in an engine. The tire that’s most effective at removing that water is going to do a better job of gripping on glare ice.”
Bridgestone’s multi-cell technology has been part of
Blizzak tires since the line was introduced in 1993. However, the multi-cell compounds in the WS80 are coated with a newly developed proprietary substance that improves the tire’s ability to attract water. The innovation enables the tire to provide better acceleration and braking grip as well as improved steering capability over its predecessor.
“Bridgestone spends over a billion dollars a year in research and development and a fair amount of that goes toward making the compounding of the Blizzak work better in more situations,” says Arnold. “They are always thinking of ways to make it more effective at removing water from the surface of the ice, make it more flexible at super low temperatures so that even on dry roads it provides really good grip, make it wear better so you can get more seasons out of the tire, and in the case of the WS80, also make the tire handle better on dry roads.” ■