As more electric vehicles are hitting the road, Michelin is investing in tires that will improve their performance.
The global French tire giant—which has North American headquarters in Greenville, South Carolina—is developing the Michelin X InCity Energy Z tire in association with Proterra, a maker of electric buses. The collaboration has produced a tire designed to reduce rolling resistance, increase load capacity and improve traction.
“It’s really a unique tire on the market that performs as needed in an urban environment but also delivers very low rolling resistance for optimizing the range for electrical vehicles,” said Brad Cline, strategic marketing manager for the urban segment of Michelin North America.
Urban terrain, flat or hilly, requires a lot of stopping, Cline said. The new tires have thicker sidewalls to handle slow turns and curb scraping as drivers edge close to sidewalks to pick up passengers.
The tire was showcased at the American Public Transportation Association Mobility Conference on May 21 in Louisville, Kentucky. The tire will be commercially available in 2020 and will be standard on most Proterra 40-foot Catalyst buses, beginning later this year.
Electric buses tend to wear out tires faster than diesels because of battery weight, particularly on the steering axle, and instant torque delivery. The X InCity Energy Z tire was designed for improved range and performance by using new rubber compounds and tread designs. A prototype of the Michelin tire was key to the Proterra Catalyst E2 max vehicle surpassing the world record in 2017 for driving the longest distance ever traveled by an electric vehicle on a single charge–more than 1,100 miles.
“What we’re trying to do is look for opportunities to improve several factors that contribute to more range on a single charge. One is drivetrain efficiency, which the tires are part of. Depending on the drive cycle, these tires can add between 4.5 percent and nine percent improved drivetrain efficiency,” said Lyndon Schneider, director of vehicle engineering for Proterra.
The tire meets the severe snow traction requirements of the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association and the Tire and Rubber Association of Canada.
The multi-year collaboration between Michelin and Proterra made sense since both companies have research and development labs in Greenville.
“Michelin is a very advanced tire company. They do a lot of work on high-tech tires for a number of industries, including transit. They’re also right down the road from us and were the most willing to work with us,” Schneider said.
Developing tires for zero-emission vehicles—whether cars or buses—aligns with the company’s goals of creating sustainable solutions for customers. In June, Michelin sponsored the Movin’On Summit in Montreal, a three-day gathering described as the “Davos of mobility” to address sustainable mobility issues.
“Across our product portfolio, Michelin has always invested in products that are energy efficient. As the industry continues to move more towards electric and improved energy efficiency, this is just the next product in our portfolio evolution to deliver sustainable mobility,” Cline said.