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An electric future for tires in Europe

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An electric future for tires in Europe

In  the past couple of months I have attended several tire and automotive shows in Europe which has given me a good insight into what is happening at the moment. It would be fair to say that there are a number of producers currently embarking on exciting developments for the future.

Two particularly interesting innovations have aroused my interest from Bridgestone Corp. and Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., respectively.

Bridgestone recently announced the successful development of its “unique” Large and Narrow concept tire which has been on display in Europe and received an encouraging reception from the market. This new ground-breaking development delivers a totally new generation of tire that has been specifically designed for electric and hybrid vehicles.

When I spoke with Jake Ronshølt, Bridgestone’s general manager of corporate and brand communications, he pointed out that the tire is significantly narrower and taller than current patterns and has been manufactured very much with future sustainability in mind.

He says, “This Large and Narrow concept tire will offer 30% lower rolling resistance, therefore producing a great saving on fuel economy, and also provides greatly improved aerodynamics with reduced aero resistance. It also delivers an 8% improvement in wet handling performance.”

It seems by the end of this year, a leading German-based car manufacturer intends to launch an electric vehicle which will be the very first car to be fitted with Large and Narrow tires following a research and development partnership between the two companies. In due course (no introduction date has yet been announced), the tire will initially be released into the European market and eventually will become available on a global basis within the OE sector.

Bridgestone also has recently showcased a futuristic tire in its first stage concept design which has been completely manufactured from recyclable materials. Looking to the long-term future, the company informed me that by 2050 it is their determined intention to ensure that all tires will be manufactured with 100% sustainable materials. They are currently working toward introducing its first tire of this kind by 2018 and are experimenting with potentially suitable replacement materials.

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At the same time I was most interested to learn that Goodyear is involved in a multi-partnership venture to produce the “next generation” of electrical vehicle in Europe for operation in inner city environments. This futuristic concept vehicle will be a compact car running completely on electricity and therefore delivering no pollutants to the environment. Once again the ultimate objective is complete sustainability. In effect, Goodyear is looking to produce a tire which handles the specific needs of tomorrow’s electric vehicles including a relatively constant torque, even at low speeds, whilst increasing drive performance.

Obviously I would imagine that other leading tire manufacturers also are exploring the possibilities of eventually launching tires that are produced with alternative materials to rubber as part of Europe’s concerted effort to promote the adoption of environmentally friendly tire manufacturing procedures.

I am writing this article on my return from the Tyrexpo Asia show in Singapore where once again some exhibitors were showcasing “concept tire projects” which are being carried out with the future of our planet very much in mind. For the past few years, the safety of our planet has been a major issue with the production of tires being continually spotlighted as a major offender of toxic materials.

Therefore the incentive of Bridgestone and Goodyear will be followed with increasing interest.    ■

John Stone has been working within the global tire industry for the past 20 years. In 2004 he launched his own company, Sapphire Media Services, as a business media consultant with clients around the globe. Stone also writes for tire and automotive-related publications in Europe, South Africa and Asia.

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