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Michelin Invests $6.8M In R&D To Further Reduce Tire-Related Energy Consumption

Michelin is investing $6.8 million in a research and development project focused on further improving vehicle fuel economy by reducing tire rolling resistance. These funds will support the company’s research efforts in South Carolina and include a $1.9 million research contract with Clemson University and its International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR). The work will begin immediately and is set to be completed over the next three years.

In October 2007, Michelin announced plans to further reduce tire-related energy consumption and associated greenhouse gas emissions. Those plans include reducing tire rolling resistance by half. This project is one step towards achieving that goal.

Michelin Americas Research Company (MARC) will lead the project and conduct much of the work internally. Additionally, after a competitive bid process with several leading universities, Michelin selected Clemson University to conduct a significant portion of the research. The Clemson contract is valued at $1.9 million and will engage the talents of more than 20 professors, graduate and undergraduate students.

The Michelin project, including the research at Clemson, will develop new generations of tires, new manufacturing processes, new materials and improved modeling and simulation tools for use in automotive applications. It will fund a suite of technologies that will allow Michelin to put better, more advanced products on the market.

Since 1992, compared to conventional tires on the road, the 570 million Michelin green energy saving tires sold worldwide have reduced fuel consumption by an estimated 2.4 billion gallons, resulting in a reduction of CO2 emissions of more than 25 million tons, the equivalent of the amount absorbed by 880 million trees in one year, according to company calculations.

Tires are a significant part, up to 20%, of the energy needed to operate a car. For commercial trucks, the impact may be even higher, up to 30% and more. By reducing rolling resistance, Michelin can reduce the amount of tire-related energy consumed, improving fuel economy and reducing CO2 emissions.

Michelin was one of the first partners in CU-ICAR, funding an endowed chair and associated laboratory in February 2004.


daniel billinton

Michelin is regarded as the market leader in low rolling resistance tyres and such tyres will become increasingly standard fitment on vehicles as manufacturers try to meet emisssions regaultions - tyres are one of the easiest ways to lower emissions as it is immediate, it costs the manufacturer very little to fit and means zero expenditure on R & D for themselves.

Halving rolling resistance seems doubtful though for the following reasons.-

Historically there has always been a trade off between rolling resistance and grip - i.e. braking distances and safety. the importance of safety to reduce deaths has usually won through - hence why we drive on rough tramc roads instead of smooth tarmac - so that drivers can brake safely even in wet conditions. tyres have also been made much more puncture resistant to improve safety by fitting them with tough steel belts.

The moment that you make narrower tyres with less puncture resistance and with higher pressures to lower rolling resistance you inevitably sacrifice safety, grip and braking performance.

Micheli claims that the use of Silica in the compound allows for better rolling resistance whilst maintaining grlp performance - but this can only reduce rolling resistance by 10% to 20% or so and not 50%

The simplest way to reduce rolling resistance though is to make cars lighter.


Sounds good.

Would anyone have a breakdown of energy loses in a car at say 50 kmph and 100 kmph ?

It would be interesting to see where it all goes.

I always thought that you could "green-tune" a car where you would fit narrower, higher pressure tyres, and limit the max speed of the car (to something reasonable like 150 kmph) and so on.

The acceleration would not be affected (much) so there would be little impact on the actual driving experience, only the headline max speed number would suffer.

You might be able to use ABS and ESP etc. to compensate for less grippy tyres.

Or is this too hair shirt for most people to contemplate. ( I cannot imagine that men in their twenties would go for it, but older, more "settled" people might ) [ or women ].


I commend michelin for trying to devise lower rolling resistance tires. At the same time I would like to see michelin and others create A rolling resistance rating system for A given size tire. I have two sets of LRR tires for my car (summer/winter) and it took a staggering amount of research to find how tires compare to one another in this area.

Houston Realtor

In addition, a michelin partner, Fisker Automotive Inc., an Irvine, Calif.-based maker of "green" sports cars, has raised $20 million in second-round funding led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, according to a regulatory filing. The company had announced the deal last month, but without a dollar amount. Fisker previously raised a $5.5 million first round led by Palo Alto Investors. Both rounds were placed by ThomasLloyd Capital. It plans to roll out its first cars in Q4 2009.


At the same time I would like to see michelin and others create A rolling resistance rating system for A given size tire.

Agreed. They need to standardize the measurement of rolling resistance of tires and make those measurements easy to compare between tires, like the Energy Star labels on appliances.


Good for Michelin.

Whether you get 5%, 10%, or 50% it is better to get something provided unacceptable tradeoffs can be avoided.

As Daniel said, weight is important. A reduction counts whether it is in the car body or in the tire itself.

Airlines carry many thousand tires for millions of miles per day. They would profit greatly by a small weight reduction.

Drivers aren't going to buy a lighter tire for a personal vehicle until the older ones need replacing. That might be years. But the airlines would adopt a lighter tire quickly. And ground transportation companies would too.


Rolling resistance ratings simple enough for the average consumer to recognize (even if they don't know the exact meaning) similar to the traction ratings on could tell at a glance if tire xyz is of similar efficiency, better or worse than tire abc.


Michelin already has very low rolling resistance technology, the Proxima tires they used on the EV1. They stopped selling the low rolling resistance Proxima. This tire would improve fuel economy of a gasoline car by 3-5mpg compared to stock tires. The link below shows the very low rolling resistance of the EV1 tire. I hope they bring this tire back.

Greenseal rates the current low rolling resistance tires:

John Taylor

I would like to see Michelin and others create a rolling resistance rating system for all size tires. We should have this as required consumer labeling.

Also ... the Proxima tire technology sounds like it is now about to get re-introduced as "new" with a few minor upgrades. Sad to know we could all have been buying 'green' tires for the past 10 years and weren't given the chance.

Dave K.

You can buy LRR tires now, they're on a lot of new cars. I agree that it's hard to get info on them though, I have really had to struggle to find out anything. Goodyear Integrity is a LRR tire available in most sizes and moderately priced, I prefer Michelin Energy but these have been discontinued and become hard to find, I'm glad to hear more LRR Michelins are coming.
It's a really big deal though, my friend put non-LRR tires on his Insite and the mileage dropped 10%!


Some people may look at LRR as the inverse of traction. This may not be the case. Maybe you can have a tire that saves fuel AND gets good traction, handling and wet weather performance.

If we get electric cars, whether EV or HEV that can run very quietly, maybe all you will hear is tire and gear noise. If we get hub motors or direct drive maybe all we will hear is tire noise. With efficient tires, we may not even hear much of that.


It would seem intuitive that steel belts reduce punctures, but that is not the main objective,
The steel actually lowers rolling resistance and stabilises the tyres footprint or road contact shape. It resists rolling (or tucking) under, curvature by maintaining flatness and twisting with advantages to steering response.
Puncture resistance is a minor benefit as the woven belt will admit most fine objects quite readily.
I had an Echidna (Australian monotreme)under my steel radial and the spiny quills that populated the poor creatures upper surface peppered the tyre such that after a number of repairs the new tyre was abandoned as the broken spines kept working their way in each time.
Advertisers would have seen merit in promoting the puncture aspect as it is a simple concept.


The area of interest to me when talking rolling resistance is can the lrr tyre provide the compliance we associate with the high profile rough road tyres?
As the rr translates to heat, can we expect the opposite IE a tyre with conformity that doesn't heat will therefore be fuel efficient?
The drive feel will be important to these products market acceptance

Larry Evans

You should be aware that National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been charged by congress (12/7/2007) to develop a consumer rating system for rolling resistance of replacement passenger tires.

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