Sustainability and the digital revolution have created a new roadmap for all players in the mobility process. The Michelin Group has been instrumental in playing a part in designing the mobility of the future, by addressing requirements for the entire value chain. Auto Tech Review met Erik Grab, Vice President, Strategic Anticipation & Innovation Corporate, Michelin to discuss the road ahead for efficient tyre manufacturing and material management.
The global scenario for environment-friendly tyre manufacturing has seen a paradigm shift over the years in terms of material advancements and production processes. Grab said that the long-term purpose of Michelin is to improve mobility and mobility beyond tyres. In pursuing its ambitious objectives for 2020, and as a signatory of the UN Global Compact and official partner of the COP climate conference, Michelin aims to strengthen its leadership in sustainable mobility and become one of the top-performing companies in fulfilling all of its commitments to responsibility globally.
Sustainable mobility means offering each individual the possibility of traveling in optimal conditions of safety and comfort, while respecting the environment completely as well as providing a total vision of what mobility could be in the future. The constraints weighing on the large existing urban centres, on natural resources and on the climate require tyre manufacturers to rethink transportation, vehicle and fuel solutions, Grab said. Michelin has made this the core of its development strategy, because the company believes just as strongly in the business opportunities that this creates as in the values of energy efficiency and sustainability, he added.
By 2020, Michelin wants to drive a 20 % increase in the revenue generated by its tyre businesses and the Indian market remains an important part of this growth strategy. The strong growth in the global mobility market and the rapid move to urbanisation represent opportunities for the company’s energy-saving solutions. By 2020, Grab said that Michelin also plans to double the revenue generated by its service activities.
The aim is to optimise the management of tyres with the goal of reducing their environmental footprint while maintaining safety, productivity and cost controls. The high-technology material segment for tyres has been a success story for Michelin, and the company wants to expand its R&D initiatives globally, to retain its leadership position in this segment.
THE ‘VISION’ CONCEPT
Environmental compatibility has been a key element for cars, with several models offering features like bio-plastics, and manufacturing processes with less ecological impact in mind. With the Vision concept, Michelin is looking to extend this thought to tyres. Instead of being filled with air, the Vision is constructed out of bio-materials that are fully biodegradable. The tyre is denser toward the centre for strength, while the outside has less structural density, which allows for some flexibility. Michelin also ensures that by removing pressurised air from the equation, the tyre will not have to worry about explosions or blowouts on the road. Vision is the world’s first tyre that recharges.
With the aid of 3D printers, it is possible to use the right amount of rubber on the tyre and thus extend its life depending on needs, thereby ensuring mobility in all situations. The tread design is optimised and its depth is reduced in order to reduce its thickness and make the tyre more efficient in terms of materials. The tread design is adapted, in accordance with the user’s mobility needs, with a triple concern for comfort, safety and sustainability.
Equipped with sensors, Vision provides real time information about its condition. Through Michelin’s mobile application, it’s possible to make an appointment to change the tyre’s destination, depending on the user’s needs. The materials used, which are both bio-sourced and biodegradable, have minimised the tyre’s environmental footprint, said Grab.
THE WAY AHEAD
Michelin plans to follow a multi-pronged strategy for its future endeavours. In the future, Grab said, tyre tread patterns will be closely adapted to user needs by applying the minimum amount of rubber needed and by being recharged using 3D printing technology. This solution reduces the amount of energy needed to create a new tread. Using an organic core that can be reused helps in reducing carbon footprint and preserves the natural resources that are used to create the tyre.
Integrating a large number of renewable components limits the use of petroleum-based products and also improves shelf-life of tyres. Michelin plans to reiterate its commitment to use materials derived from wood chips, straw, sugar residue, and orange peels. The natural rubber will come solely from environmentally responsible rubber farms. Tyres will also incorporate recycled materials from tyres or households, such as tyre powders, aluminium cans and electronic components.
TEXT: Anwesh Koley