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September 03, 2020 | Automotive & Transportation
The invention of the rubber tire for passenger vehicles dates back to the mid-19th century, when the American chemist and engineer Charles Goodyear discovered the vulcanization process. It involved heating rubber with sulfur, which converted sticky rubber into a more pliable substance. Vulcanization thus enabled transforming raw rubber into different shapes, and it quickly became the most widely used material for making vehicular tires. The next stage in the evolution of the rubber tire came in 1888, when the Scottish inventor John Boyd Dunlop developed the pneumatic tire. The technology utilized in these tires involved enclosing of air within the tire to reduce vibration and improve traction, thus making the ride comfortable for passengers.
Automotive tire OEM technology has come a long way since Goodyear and Dunlop’s discoveries and innovations. Today, tire manufacturers are engineering novel tire products using new-age production methods technologies and designing tire solutions for a broad array of industries, ranging from agriculture and mining to car racing and aviation. Moreover, with automobiles becoming more affordable and economies growing rapidly, the scope of this market is widening at an unprecedented pace.
Bridgestone Brings Revolutionary Lightweight Tire Technology to VW’s Electric Vehicle
Bridgestone announced a new partnership with its long-time collaborator, Volkswagen, in July 2020, with Bridgestone bringing its path-breaking ENLITEN tire technology to Volkswagen ID.3 electric vehicle. The ENLITEN technology is designed for sustainable vehicle mobility as it allows tires to have an extremely low rolling resistance, while requiring substantially fewer raw materials to be created. Being lightweight, tires produced using this technology also improve battery conservation in electric cars, heightening its sustainability quotient in the process.
Michelin to Make Farmers’ Lives Easier with TRAILXBIB Tires
In June 2020, Michelin released TRAILXBIB tires, developed in collaboration with farmers and specially designed for slurry tankers, spreaders, and trailers. The most remarkable features of the tires include a tread pattern design for regular wear and road behavior, which prolongs the tire-life; superior self-cleaning capabilities, allowing them to move efficiently through mud; and new standardized casing for enhanced soil protection and robustness, making the tires high endurance. With this product launch, Michelin aims to meet the surging requirement among agriculturists for efficient tires to wade through challenging road conditions and fields, which ultimately contribute to better agricultural productivity.
Goodyear Becomes First Company to Win Key Label for Efficiency and Traction
In February 2020, the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company announced the development of its original equipment all-season tire that will be released later this year. The tire was granted the 3-Peak Mountain Snowflake designation and was certified Rolling Resistance “A” under the European Tire Labeling Regulation, making Goodyear the first tire company to win these tags, which illustrate a tire’s fuel efficiency and extreme traction capabilities. With fittings planned for vehicles produced by Peugeot and PSA Group, this offering will strengthen Goodyear’s position as a leading provider of sustainable mobility solutions.
COVID-19 and the Automotive Industry: A Story of Upheavals
The automotive industry has emerged as one of the worst-hit industries by the COVID-19 pandemic. Lockdowns, social distancing, and dramatic economic downturn have had a cascading effect on the demand and sales of cars across the globe. In India, for example, the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) reported that passenger vehicle sales in May 2020 fell by nearly 50% compared to the same period in 2019. In June, car sales declined by a whopping 58%, while that of two wheelers dropped by 39%, the SIAM notes.
The European automobile market has suffered heavy losses as well. The Italy-based association of carmakers, UNRAE, estimates that car sales in Italy could plunge by 15% this year because of the coronavirus. Moreover, several big automakers have been forced to reduce production to cope with the falling demand and shrinking workforce at plants. For example, in March, Fiat Chrysler announced that it will be shutting down operations at its plants in Italy, Serbia, and Poland. The PSA Group released a similar statement, announcing the closing down of several of its facilities across Europe. The coronavirus, therefore, has sent shockwaves across the global automotive industry, which will inevitably affect the tire market.
Are Smart Tires the Future of the Tire Industry?
Leading tire manufacturers are developing tires that are equipped with smart technologies such as artificial intelligence and Internet of Things. Data analytics and intelligent systems are the future of tire management, according to Continental Tire’s executive vice president of commercial vehicle tires. Smart tires, thus, are ushering in a new era in the tire industry, which will be further complemented by shift toward sustainable urban mobility and the proliferation of electric vehicles across the globe.