HI-TECH TYRES AND LOTS OF INNOVATION
GENEVA MOTOR SHOW SPECIAL
At a glittering Show with no fewer than 180 premieres, tyre manufacturers competed at presenting “greener” models with greater performance along with new winter models, ultra-sporty tyres, airless prototypes and new types of intelligent tyres. The following is a complete account
A SPARKLING, fascinating motor show that was simultaneously anchored securely to the present and projected towards the future, with attendance and enjoyment that has not been seen for years. With manufacturers in top form and considerable substance represented by the 180 world and European premieres of cars, components, accessories and equipment that were unveiled to the public over eleven days. Once again the world automotive capital, from 8 to 18 March Geneva hosted the 82nd edition that was animated by 260 exhibitors, all the main brands of cars, and over 700,000 visitors who packed the Show’s 110,000 square metres. And tyre manufacturers were in no way inferior with a riot of new products, plausible prototypes and upcoming technologies. With respect for the environment and safety, with precision and passion, above all they were intent on sharpening their competitive tools in view of the new European labelling, well aware that its debut in November will change the dynamics of the segment.
Shields with a “green” line
This is where manufacturers flexed their muscles, beginning with the nearest frontier: the “green” line common to both Bridgestone and Yokohama for car tyres. The former has expanded its Ecopia Ep150 line (also fitted on the BMW i3 electric city car in the 175/60 R19 size) and the latter has translated BluEarth technology into standard products with the Ae-01 label. Continental stepped on the gas in e-Cars and hybrids with the new Conti.eContact, which is already mounted (125/80 R13 and 145/80 R13 on the front and rear, respectively) on the new two-seater electric quad Renault Twizy, the owners of which needn’t fear the winter, if it is true that by next year the Conti.eContact Winter, the first of its kind, will also be available. The cold season was the challenging terrain for Pirelli’s Winter Snowcontrol Serie 3 and the new ContiWinterContact Ts850 series, both of which promise to minimize rolling resistance, the preference of drivers of mid-size and compact vehicles, whereas the new Pirelli Scorpion Winter is dedicated to SUVs and muscle cars. Also for 4x4 city cars and crossovers, for which extra effort is requested with regard to eco-friendliness and fuel economy, is the new Goodyear EfficientGrip SUV and the Yokohama Geolandar SUV G055 which appeared in the Geneva showcase with the Pirelli Scorpion Verde: lighter structures, compounds, profiles and optimized treads, with efficiency the declared primary aim.
Large volumes and high performance
Another chapter: the lines responsible for major sales volumes. The new products were Bridgestone’s touring tyre Turanza T001, which will replace the Er300, and equally hot off the production line was Continental’s ContiPremiumContact 5, a kind of link between the SportContact 5 and EcoContact 5 series. In the segment with the highest margins, the battle spread to an ever-growing group of competitors: Dunlop launched the ultra-high- performance Sport Maxx RT (which is joined by the track day tyre Dunlop Sport Maxx Race), the Indian manufacturer Apollo (owner since 2009 of the Vredestein brand) brought out the first UHP in the range, the Aspire 4G; Pirelli responded with the P Zero Silver, derived directly from its F1 experience. Technological developments in the segment were not only expressed by the increasingly wide, segmented and high performance tyres of the new generation, but also by a spread of prototypes that could be industrialized with more or less rapidity and avant-garde technical solutions. Like the intelligent tyre that’s ahead of its time because it communicates with the driver, with obvious advantages for driving safety.
Smart tyres on the final stretch
So, if Goodyear Dunlop has focused on Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) technology, which it is already using to monitor tyres in races and provides for fleets of trucks to simplify maintenance, then Pirelli has announced the upcoming debut (first on trucks and then on cars) of Cyber tyre pressure and temperature sensors that compare data with road conditions, and Bridgestone has unveiled Contact Area Information Sensing (CAIS) which uses tyre vibrations to identify seven types of surfaces, from wet to compacted snow to ice, and sends a signal to the driver: the sensor and micro-generator weigh a total of 150g and are glued to the inside of the tyre. Because safety and efficiency also mean keeping tyres correctly inflated, Goodyear has presented an innovative solution that could be compared with Columbus’ egg: Air Maintenance Technology (AMT) consists of a small tube, a mini filter and a control valve inserted in the tyre. Working on the principle of the peristaltic pump, if the rotating tyre needs to be inflated, the valve opens. Otherwise, it releases excess air, thereby keeping pressures correct.
Self-inflating and airless prototypes
Noise reduction is also targeted by the American manufacturer and to this end it took part in the European project CityHush. But the idea of airless tyres has been entrusted to a lunar prototype developed for NASA which has 800 helical wires that form a strong metal mesh that can be covered with rubber. Is this the future? On its part, Bridgestone exhibited an airless prototype previously presented in Tokyo on vehicles for disabled people and soon to be used on electric city cars and hybrids: mounted on aluminium mini rims, the fins are made of thermoplastic resin with staggered connections for shock absorption and heat dispersal. They will be covered with a special tread and once in production this tyre should cost the same as one of the same size. There was no lack of exercises in style at Geneva, such as the three concepts from Yokohama with the HoneyComb tread, sculpted like a network of digital imprints (Shimon) and a sequence of harmonic waves (Yuragi). Then there were the tyres with sidewalls that can be personalized with the new colour printing presented by Bridgestone: sold only with changeover tyres, the sidewalls are treated with antioxidants, specific inks and the application of a third transparent and protective layer, so that it will last for a couple of years; without doubt, not only tuning enthusiasts but also graphic artists and ad people will be able to indulge themselves. Lastly, the details of some of the product premieres presented at the Show.
• Apollo Aspire 4G
Available in nine sizes for wheels from 16” to 18” and with W and Y speed ratings, the first UHP from the Indo-European brand has an asymmetric tread and a compound with a high styrene-butadiene (SBR and S-SBR) and silica content. The result of the collaboration between its two R&D centres in India and Holland and a candidate for equipping Volkswagen Passat, BMW series 5, Mercedes E Class and the Audi A6, the new Aspire 4G has a wide outer shoulder and three wide circumferential grooves that reduce aquaplaning and improve grip on the wet. It also has a stiffer rib to the advantage of contact with the road and steering precision.
• Bridgestone Turanza T001
The new Turanza T001, which will replace the Turanza Er300, has been conceived for a wide variety of vehicles, from compacts to mid- and large-size saloons, which it targets with 40 sizes for wheels from 15” to 18”, a figure that is due to increase to 77 in a year. Made with a tread compound with a higher silica content, the new touring tyre boasts a lighter structure, a casing designed to limit deformation, and the NanoPro-Tech system for reducing rolling resistance by 19% compared with its predecessor, which it also beats by 2.3% for fuel consumption. The flat contact patch gives more regular wear and prolongs the life of the tyre by 15%.
• Continental ContiPremiumContact 5
The new high volume model ContiPremiumContact 5 comes in 26 versions for wheels from 14” to 17”. Compared with the previous model, it is accredited with 15% better braking on wet, rolling resistance reduced by 8%, 12% more mileage and even greater driving comfort because it is 5% quieter. In the light of the new European labelling, ContiPremiumContact 5 is the alternative to the ContiEcoContact 5: between the former, which is oriented toward greater safety, and the latter, which is more energy efficient, the choice depends on the vehicle and style of driving.
• Dunlop Sport Maxx RT
Developed by driving enthusiasts with a compound derived from racing tyres and indicated for the sporty Audi, Maserati, Mini, BMW, Jaguar and Mercedes AMG, Sport Maxx RT is the new generation of UHP tyres from Dunlop. Available for wheels of 17 and 18 inches, compared with its predecessor, Dunlop Sport Maxx TT, it not only promises better grip with greater adaptability to road surfaces and resistance to aquaplaning, but also reduced consumption thanks to more aerodynamic shoulders and materials that limit heat generation.
• Goodyear Efficientgrip SUV
Dedicated to the SUV and AWD markets, from the biggest to the more compact and even two-door models, the new Efficientgrip SUV is accredited with the ability to combine grip with the containment of fuel consumption and CO2 emissions and a quieter drive. Lighter than the previous models, it features greater rigidity and different contact patch distribution to give more mileage. The compound is made from traction resins that increase grip and braking on the wet.
• Pirelli P Zero Silver
A UHP tyre derived from F1 and developed for sport saloons and upmarket coupés, P Zero Silver was created to confirm the family’s performance characteristics while increasing durability. Typical users drive over 20,000 km a year, prefer motorways and use the car every day. Produced in a limited edition of 11 sizes for 19 and 20 inch wheels, the new product is the link between P Zero and Cinturato P7; the former is lighter with a mixture of soft and harder compounds and it is also less extreme than the latter with regard to low rolling resistance.
• Yokohama Geolandar SUV G055
Mid-size and smaller crossovers and SUVs are the target of the new Geolandar SUV G055 available in 27 sizes from 245/50 R20 102V to 205/70 R15 96H. Yokohama has used its BluEarth technology for the first time in an SUV tyre to give greater efficiency and thereby reduce consumption and CO2 emissions. The new product joins a range that already includes the Geolandar H/T-S designs for road SUVs and larger models, Geolandar A/T-S for all-round vehicles, Geolandar M/T+ for off-road vehicles, and the winter tyre Geolandar I/T+ and I/T-S.