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Winter Tires: A Closer Look at Innovations

Long gone are the days of the horse-drawn carriage! The research and development teams of tire manufacturers just keep on coming up each year with more innovations. From intelligent studs to tires with a reduced ecological footprint, advances in technology have continuously brought enhanced safety and performance characteristics to summer and winter tires. Discover below the most noteworthy innovations, along with a sneak preview of what the future has in store.

 

Intelligent Studs

 No doubt about it, Quebec roads are not among the smoothest. In winter asphalt surfaces are submitted to cycles of rain, intense cold, warming episodes and polar winds that transform roads into skating rinks. But even in Quebec’s wintry conditions the use of tire chains are not a solution due to the fact that they are quite difficult to install and unpractical all-around. Chains are suited in fact only to the most extreme conditions, such as those encountered when driving in the Rockies, for example. Fortunately tire studs do perform quite well on icy or snow-covered roads. In the worst winter conditions, studded tires offer an optimal road grip to prevent skidding when you brake and spinning when you accelerate, not to mention that wheels remain stable during cornering maneuvers. You also need to know that studded tires are less noisy and more fuel efficient than models of the past. 

We propose : Pirelli Ice Zero Studded

Sipes

In rainy or snowy conditions, the small grooves found on the tread of a tire called sipes improve grip when braking or getting the car moving. Toyo offers a tire with spider web-shaped sipes, i.e. a tire that vastly increases the number of sipes over the tread circumference to ensure an optimal grip. A large number of sipes over the entire tread surface is more effective than concentrating sipes to limited areas of the tread. All in all spider sipes are designed to offer maximum traction when coming into contact with ice and snow and so better grip the road  in winter.

We propose: Toyo Observe GSI-5

Ecological Concerns

 

Tire manufacturers have become acutely aware of the ecological concerns of their customers regarding the tires they purchase. Yet there are still sceptics who believe that ecological tires simply cannot compete with “normal” tires when it comes to performance. Nonetheless technologies are now so advanced that most ecologically friendly tires also offer reduced rolling resistance, i.e. a greater capacity to overcome the resistance between the tire tread and the road  to get your vehicle moving. So a decreased rolling resistance translates in reduced CO2 emissions and improves vehicle fuel efficiency. Several companies now promote tire technologies that rely on renewable biomass. A case in point, Bridgestone has developed a biomass-derived synthetic rubber instead of relying on the usual petroleum-based components. Another example is the Russian dandelion from which can be derived a compound with the same properties as natural rubber. Other companies are experimenting also with the production of synthetic rubber (derived from organic matter or agricultural waste). The tires are 100% recyclable and can serve as raw material in many applications or as fuel in energy production facilities. In fact, ecologically-friendly recycled tires can be used as clean fill or as sound-proofing material, as well as key components in the production of railway ties, drainage products and synthetic playing field and park surfaces. Several plants in Quebec, in Sherbrooke more specifically, transform tires into carpets for the agricultural sector. There is even a family in Saint-Mathieu-du-Parc in the La Mauricie region that built a house using more than a 1,000 used tires.

Stability

 To obtain enhanced handling characteristics, tire manufacturers have found that bigger and larger tires increase vehicle stability and performance. As of 2012, all new cars were required to be equipped with an electronic stability control system to avoid head-on collisions. The electronic stability control system allows maintaining control of the car if skidding occurs in wintry weather when roads are covered with snow, slush and ice. The role of tires is very important relative to this stability system since tires are the only contact the vehicle has with the road. For optimal handling stability tires simply need to provide excellent traction. The electronic stability control system is simply inoperative if tires are not in good condition or show excessive wear. 

 We propose: BFGoodrich Winter Slalom KSI

 Where Tires are Manufactured

 There was a time when tires manufactured in Asia were poorly regarded in the marketplace. Public perception would have it that such tires were attractively priced but of a shoddy quality. However more recently Asian tire manufacturers have developed tires that are now internationally competitive. This is illustrated by the fact that Chinese tires, like their North American competitors, now achieve the performance levels set by the regulatory testing authorities that apply the international benchmarks surrounding the M/S registration. Simply put Asian tires are less expensive but no longer owing to questionable quality. But how do Asian manufacturers manage to make tires that are 20-50% less expensive than tires made anywhere else in the world? For one thing these manufacturers make less profit by tire, not to mention that they do not spend nearly as much in major marketing campaigns as their competitors. What’s more production costs are simply lower in manufacturing facilities operating in China. However it is important to take the time to research the feedback of customers or to consult your tire specialist before buying Chinese tires. The fact is some Chinese brand tires tend to vibrate slightly on the road since they are more difficult to balance. If you clock up a lot of mileage, especially in winter, you are better off purchasing European or North American brands. It is essential to understand the difference of quality offered by Chinese tires, since they present “premium” models that are often considered as providing average to ordinary levels of quality.

 

Tread Compounds

 The new gum compounds reinforce grip on snow or ice covered surfaces without compromising tire life expectancy and fuel economy. Silica is a major winter tire component that helps rubber preserve significant elasticity even in the extreme cold. This characteristic offered by silica is important since winter tires must remain pliable even when temperature drop to -40 degrees to ensure safe vehicle handling, maintain fuel economy and reduce tire noise without affecting tire life expectancy.

 We propose: Michelin X-ICE XI3

Tires of the Future?

Goodyear soybean oil-based tires are considered to be one of the most promising research avenues of the future. The development of this technology would reduce the rate of petroleum-based oils used in the manufacturing of tires and would decrease energy consumption in manufacturing facilities.

 

Michelin has unveiled its Vision airless, biodegradable and rechargeable tire concept. You will no longer have to change a tire… ever! The tires are designed to last as long as the car.

However the most significant tire technology revolution is by far the electronic chip inserted in the tires. This chip already equips Pirelli tires, but only for the most over-the-top cars such as the Ferraris and Lamborghinis. But manufacturers of more affordable vehicles should also make use of this technology in some ten year’s time as it will eventually become economical and accessible on the vehicles of any category and allow a driver to monitor the wear of his tires in real time.

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