Berlin 2010, Michelin’s offensive in Germany
The French manufacturer has just organised a battle of trials in the German capital, open to the press. The goal of this event was to reinforce Michelin’s key message about the balance of performance in the context of future tyre labelling. An offensive strategy against its direct competitors? A consumer policy? rezulteo investigates.
Presentation of the event
The track at the ADAC Berlin is a modern, professional venue, where manufacturers come to try out their ranges. Continental in the lead. By chance? Probably not, this event was the opportunity for Michelin to set the record straight and give us a real demonstration of their know-how.
For almost 20 years, the green/energy saving feature is a variable that has been included in Michelin’s tyre development specifications.
On paper, this is a serious challenge, as reducing rolling resistance and maintaining a high level of performance are theoretically antagonistic aspects. For the simple reason that with standard rubber, the tread has to reach a certain temperature to provide a good level of grip, itself a hindrance to rolling resistance and hence to consumption. In order to optimise this criteria on the contrary, heat must be reduced.
Is it possible to make a tyre that is efficient and ecological? Michelin enables us to see for ourselves, in a direct confrontation with the competition.
Tests and results
1. Rolling resistance
On the wonderful ADAC track, Michelin organised several workshops on very specific topics, with firstly the rolling resistance test.
Not designed to test mechanical strength, the exercise consists of running 3 vehicles equivalent at all levels (type, engine, fuel level, tyre pressure, etc.) down a launch ramp to discover which one will cover the longest distance freewheel.
The aim of this comparison is to highlight which tyres have the lowest rolling resistance.
The test pitched the Michelin Pilot Sport 3 tyre against its rivals, the Continental SportContact 3 and Bridgestone Potenza RE050A.
After a few tens of metres, the first 2 vehicles fitted with Bridgestone and Continental stopped almost at the same time, whereas the Michelins ran a few extra metres as you can see in the video.
We looked for the trick, let’s be honest, but on this point, it must be conceded that Michelin beat its competitors hands down.
2. Safety test
The second stage was more dynamic, simulating emergency braking on a wet surface. The Mercedes used were fitted with Michelin Pilot Sport 3, Continental Sportcontact 3 and Bridgestone Potenza RE050A in the 225/40R18 Y dimension.
The methodology consisted of arriving on a soaked surface at a speed of 80 kph and simulating emergency braking from a green cone marker. In order to ensure repeatable and regular conditions, the maximum speed of the vehicles was blocked by the speed limiter, and the braking distances were measured by a control unit. The cone enabled the braking manœuvres to be repeated in the same zone in order to provide constant grip.
Continental and Michelin showed almost the same braking distance, whereas the Bridgestone tyre required 2 additional metres to stop. It should be noted that in all 3 cases, the performance was truly impressive with a high level of deceleration.
3. Fuel savings
This test is complementary to the first as it is used to measure the concrete influence of rolling resistance, by assessing its beneficial effects on a vehicle’s consumption.
Since our arrival on the ADAC site, 3 VW Golf 6 left to cover a distance of about 300 kilometres on the motorway. Their return coincided with the fuel saving workshop. Firstly, the Dekra measurement methodology was explained.
So as to prevent the human factor from influencing the results obtained, the measurement methodology is very precise (the tyres change vehicle during the drive, and the test is conducted in convoy so that the vehicles drive in the same conditions).
These are the consumptions measured for these tyres in 225/40x18 Y:
Michelin Pilot Sport 3: 4.59 l/100 km 10 00
Continental SportContact 3: 4.70 l/100 km
Bridgestone Potenza RE050: 4.80 l/100 km
These differences which may seem small in absolute terms, can be considerable when annual consumption is estimated. For 10 000 kilometres, the saving amounts to 21 litres of diesel between a Michelin and a Bridgestone, for a saving estimated at about 28 Euros. A value to be compared to the purchase price of these 4 tyres and their respective lifespans.
The lifespan of a tyre is probably the most difficult variable to measure, as it is long, costs a lot and the human dimension is the most influential. As a result, it is impossible to test in one day.
Dekra however, demonstrated one of their studies on the dimension 1765/65 R 14 T.
The very strict methodology consists of driving the vehicles in convoy over a predetermined route. Regular rotations are made so that the drivers change vehicles, the lead vehicles take turns and the tyres are inverted.
The test is conducted over a certain number of kilometres (10 000 in this case), enabling tyre wear to be measured and the lifespan of the product to be extrapolated reliably.
Here are the results obtained. The test does not give an estimation of the number of kilometres the tyre will last, nor the level of deterioration, but draws up a schematic representation of performances using the tyre with the best results as a basis for comparison.
Analysis of the method
Michelin wanted to prove to us that their technology could offer a good balance of performances (see definition below), while at the same time proving that their product development went further than performance labelling required. This law will come into force in 2012, to inform consumers on the performances of a tyre prior to purchase.
Grading will take account of 3 criteria:
> Rolling resistance (grade on a scale A>G)
> Braking on wet surfaces (grading on a scale A>F)
> External noise expressed in decibels
Thus, Michelin’s message is crystal clear: if this labelling is to be right for the consumer, it should integrate the longevity factor.
What can be said of a tyre that has a good grade for rolling resistance and braking on wet surfaces, giving it a good mark as regards the future labelling, but to the detriment of longevity? Is the consumer really informed?
An objective approach?
The demonstration definitely seems sensible, as the consumer should be aware of the challenges and temptations for manufacturers to organize their performances in order to get the best grades.
In general, Michelin’s approach is interesting and would seem to be in line with history. The service provided by the testers, the most well-known in Europe: ADAC, DEKRA and TUV Sud Automotive also seems to satisfy the best practices currently in force.
However, one point seems not fully answered: Michelin speaks of the balance of performances as the ultimate in consumer satisfaction and offers complementary tests to demonstrate this balance... except that the tests presented in Berlin do not assess how these performances are maintained over time. Does a tyre with a long lifespan offer a suitable level of safety throughout its lifetime? We would have liked to have seen this aspect dealt with. Maybe next time?
Inset on balance of performances:
Maintaining balanced performances means that the promise of technological progress in a performance should not occur to the detriment of others or at least basic performances, such as safety, lifespan and rolling resistance.
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