from the reefer to the tire department

It was a mini clap of thunder that shook the mini world of tires. Against all odds, the giant Michelin was partially deprived of its place as a more or less privileged partner at Renault in mid-August. In fact, 80% of the tires for the electric Megane e-tech will be supplied by Goodyear, at least as original equipment. The American will equip all zero-emission diamond-shaped compacts equipped with 20-inch wheels, which should represent the vast majority of cars sold. Bibendum will be satisfied with the bare minimum: 18-inch brackets.

Fewer parts and more tires

What happened ? Are Michelin tires of lower quality than Goodyear tires? A priori, and according to specialists in the sector, the choice of Renault would be purely economic, and the products of the two brands would be of similar quality. But this case highlights a battle that is currently being fought behind the scenes. Because if the manufacturers are in a full electric shift, the tire manufacturers are undergoing the same transformation. Above all, according to a prospective study by Fiev (Federation of Vehicle Equipment Industries), while sales of auto parts could drop by 30% after the switch to all-electric in 2035, there are two areas where the increase could reach the same rate. These are parts related to the suspension and our famous tires.

The Korean Hankook equips the Volkswagen ID4.

Result: the rubber world is in turmoil and the leaders of the sector are fighting to win a marginal market today but a majority tomorrow. Michelin plunges into battle, especially since it has just overtaken its ancestral enemy Bridgestone by taking the lead in the world market for internal combustion engines, and it is of course followed by its rival, but also by Goodyear, which closes this top three. On the back of this rubber division, other players like Continental or Hankook are also trying to carve out a piece of a cake that is announced to be thicker than it is today.

But to win the electric car jackpot of the future, do the various manufacturers really need to develop specific tires? As we have said, electric cars consume more shock absorbers, springs and especially tires. Electric ones are heavier, have more torque than thermal ones and are quieter. Their tires must therefore be strong enough to withstand the weight and acceleration, but also quieter so that only they can be heard.

So the leaders submit to the exercise. Michelin already has two specific tire ranges: e-Primacy and Pilot Sport EV. Bridgestone, for its part, has been present in the electric market since the launch of the BMW i3 in 2013. As for Goodyear, it stands out. Its Efficient Grip Performance tire is not specifically designed for watt cars, and yet its qualities make it so compatible with electric cars that it is rather recommended by experts, and henceforth bought by Renault.

Bridgestone is a pioneer in this field and designed the tires for the BMW i3 in 2013.
Bridgestone is a pioneer in this field and designed the tires for the BMW i3 in 2013.

But it is not only the managers who are working on producing tires for electricity generation. Hankook has just presented its new Ion series. It follows a first test of specific tires with the very complicated name “Ventus S1 evo 3 EV”. The Korean has simplified its name and intends to achieve the same success as the first batch, as it already equips the Volkswagen ID4 or the Tesla Model Y.

This race for electric tires is obviously far from over, but all manufacturers are aware of what is at stake in the next decade and of the extra profit they could get. Because they all hope to sell more expensive their tires more resistant and more efficient than the good old classic rubbers.

More expensive products, this is a familiar air in the car, as the price of cars continues to rise. The same phenomenon is likely to happen in the tire world. It is undoubtedly for this reason that the tire managers carefully study a formula that has been so successful in cars: LOA, or even direct rental, especially since the wear of the rubbers used for heavy cars can force owners to change them more often. Perhaps in the near future we will no longer own our car or its tires.

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